Climate Change for most of us can be sweating more because it is getting hotter, receiving rains and snow unusually or just another debate on the radio and Television shows.
The change in the climate seems to be real in Kashmir from some years and people have started experiencing it in the form of dry Chillai Kalan or snowfall in the months of February and March, which is strange.
Strange for those who have experienced the change in it. We are not talking about the experts of environment who talk and debate about the change while sitting in their air conditioned cabins and discussing climate change nor are we talking about the people who are discussing the increasing rates of eatables because of the low production due to droughts – We talk about the people who are directly linked to the environment and depend on it for their livelihoods, it is farmers whose fields have dried up, harvests are poorer every year, crops are prone to multiple diseases caused due to this change – and those people for whom it is becoming difficult to continue keeping agriculture as their primary occupation.
“I turned my two acres of land into an apple orchard 10 years back due to the non availability of water for irrigating in time, earlier I used to do paddy cultivation on it,” says Abdul Aziz a resident of Budgam, who can be seen with a tin of copper liquid carrying in to his orchard for spraying.
“We used to grow at least five tones of paddy in it a few years ago, it all has changed now – the shortage of water for irrigation in the peak summer made my fields’ dry couple of times and I decided to switch to an apple orchard.”
Most of the areas of this district highly depend on Nallah Shaliganga for irrigation but due to the decreasing level of water in it as early in June and July has become a cause of concern and change for these farmers.
“ShaliGanga, stream is named after paddy which means, the River of Paddy and Ganga could be referred to a pure River, says MerajuDin a local of Kaich Razgeer. Meraj, had a fish farm in his 2 kanals of land and had been earning out by selling fish in the area.
“You cannot keep fish alive without water and you cannot do such business without proper water supplies to the fish pond, I have filled the pond with soil again and started construction of a house on it.”
When asked which job Meraj switched to, he said I do mechanical work and earn my daily bread.
“I am scared of me and my kids future – even after switching from maize and paddy to apple orchards, it is prone to un predictable hail storms and rains, says another farmer Mohammad Shafi of Bandipora of central Kashmir. There is no snow in time, winter is getting longer and longer with unnatural change in the Mosam (Climate), if it continues I will be left jobless”, he maintains.
The freaky weather conditions have increased the chances of floods and drought have increased. The September 2014 floods and temperature increasing up to 20 Degrees this February after 76 years has already sounded the alarm bells in Kashmir valley.
Muneer Ahmad, a 25 year old youth of Ompora town of Budgam who is a regular trekker from last some years says the fragile eco system of Pir Panchal is at stake with the increasing moment of vehicular traffic releasing the fumes of poisonous gases into the lush green forests of Doodpathri, Yusmarg and other ‘tourist places’.
“Once we cross the forests of Pir panchal and set foot on the hills of Pirpanchal Mountains we could see the fumes coming out of the forests being released by vehicles, it is a big challenge to control such thing – the increasing flow of transport shall be curtailed to a level and only ponies or non polluting vehicles shall be allowed.”
People who depend on farm produce as raw materials – when harvest is down, crop prices go up. Herders find it difficult to afford hay for their cattle and similarly the production of milk is affected.
Urban people not associated with farming have choices – like, if it is hot they wear something light, if production of milk is affected they pay more for milk, if they don’t get fresh juices and fruits they buy something else but for a person whose earning is directly associated with farming and agriculture and is difficult for him to switch his job is affected directly by the climate change.
Some of the farmers in the adjoining areas of Budgam have leased out their agricultural land to the brick Killen owners and brick Killen in turn release more and more fumes into the air.
“There is no proper regularization of brick Killen in our area, more and more Killen are coming up and we can’t continue agriculture as our occupation – instead of making the arrangements for irrigation to our land these Killen owners are being encouraged by the authorities by providing them with loans and subsidies. These Killen contribute more to the climate change”, says Aijaz Ahmad of Ichgam village of Budgam.
As per a 2013 official document accessed, there are 200 brick Killen in Budgam district, some even running illegally.
The price is paid by common people not by those who play a key role in making climate change a reality in Kashmir. The climate change forces people to give up their livelihoods by giving up their traditional occupations. Ghulam Mohammad Chopan is a shepherd who has been associated with rearing of sheep for last 40 years, 72 years Ghulam Mohammad believes that we have best pastures available for grazing but the climate has turned hostile from last 20 years, extreme climatic conditions in highlands force us to leave this traditional profession. We used to move towards forests and pastures in early May, but rains resulting in cold temperature has made our work vulnerable.
Ghulam Mohammad further maintains that it has become difficult to rely on the existing pastures which are shrinking and water is disappearing. In the absence of grass where shall we go to graze our sheep? We spend about 3-4 months in these meadows. The people live in the highland areas. Over the centuries, sheep and cattle breeding has been their key livelihood, which – together with the harsh climate and geography – has contributed to shape their nomadic way of life.
As per the official reports available on Sheep Husbandry department website total annual mutton production in the Kashmir division is 106.88 lakh Kgs while as 147 lakh Kgs are being imported from outside. The report also suggests that annual consumption of mutton is 51,000 tonnes worth 1200 crore rupees. With available sheep and goat population of 65.90 lakhs, the State at present is importing 2/3rd of its mutton requirements.
(Author is a consultant coordinator of Video Volunteers, a community.)