People employed in Kashmir’s agriculture sector detail first hand the havoc that climate change is wreaking upon their crops, lives and livelihoods.

People employed in Kashmir’s agriculture sector detail first hand the havoc that climate change is wreaking upon their crops, lives and livelihoods.

People employed in Kashmir’s agriculture sector detail first hand the havoc that climate change is wreaking upon their crops, lives and livelihoods.

Despite it having rained already, the bulbous grey clouds hadn’t left Srinagar. The afternoon sun snuck behind the gigantic, lush green mountains; the greenish-brown Jhelum had swollen behind paddy shoots.

I was in Kashmir, chasing the climate chaos. Alarm bells were ringing as rising temperatures were having a pernicious effect on water security and agriculture in the region. Some areas had already reported spikes in the average March-April temperatures, taking them from 15-20 °C to over 30 °C. The agriculture and irrigation departments in Uri and adjacent areas had to put out notices directing farmers to replace paddy with maize.

“This is the cleanest water, it’s almost alive,” Khan remarked. “If you drink this, no disease will come to you.” I couldn’t agree more.

Khan explained that Kamalkote was a village on the edge, often hit by Pakistani shells. All life – its 4,900 people and over 10,000 goats and cattle – as well as property, is at risk of joining the unknown causalities of cross-border firing.

However, it was a 2005 earthquake that really disrupted life in Kamalkote. “This area has about 250 acres of farming land and few natural sources of water, but due to the earthquake, our water changed course. Even the spring one drank from reduced,” Khan explained.

I spent the day at the village, speaking with the locals about agriculture. Earlier, farmers here grew rajma, maize, paddy and mustard. Now, all food, including milk, come from the market. Much of this is a result of new roads coming up in surrounding areas and the village experiencing a 20% reduction in water.

Over the next few days, I travelled to other areas in Uri – Namla, Bijhama, Gingal, Rustom, et al, to see how climate change is affecting agriculture there.

Also read: It’s High Time the Government Took Notice of Kashmir’s Changing Climate

The situation was not happy. Most of these places reported early sowing due to the excessive heat and fast-shrinking water resources. Overall, each area reported a reduction of 25-30% of snowfall and rain.

I sat with some farmers in Branwar, a hamlet in the Limber village of the Boniyar tehsil, not far from the Indian Army’s border fences. Ali Muhammad Lone, a farmer, was tiling his fields with his oxen, getting the soil ready for maize sowing. “Since I was a child, snowfall has decreased by over 50%. This year, too, there was hardly any snowfall. The nala has also shrunk,” Lone said.

The dry, polluted Nala in Uri. Photo: Indra Shekhar Singh.

Higher temperatures, smaller yields

On my way to Uri, I caught up with Dr Sajad Shafi at Bandi, who spoke to me about the changing times. “We never had such heat in May. This year, we saw the temperature rise at least 8-10 degrees in April and May,” Dr Shafi said.

Next, I met with sub-divisional officer for agriculture Daljeet Singh. “We have about 16,000 farming families. And climate change and excessive heat is really affecting the area. Water has reduced in the area, because it’s difficult to lift water from the river. Even government has already issued notice to farmers to shift to maize [cultivation] from paddy,” he explained.

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