Experts fear that these glaciers in the Himalayas are shrinking. Temperatures here have risen by 1.1 degrees celsius over the last 100 years. The Kolahoi Glacier, spread over 11 square kilometres, has shrunk by 2.63 square kilometres in the last 30 years alone. This glacier is the main water source for Kashmir’s biggest river, the Jhelum.
Says Arjimand Hussain Talib, an Environmentalist with Actionaid International: “As soon as snow falls in the plains, it melts within a very short span of time because the average temperatures are not supporting enough to hold the snows on the ground. Then, in the mountains we are seeing that the average temperatures are also not so low so as to support the formation of glaciers in a way that used to happen in the past.”
The people of Kashmir include tribes who depend on natural resources for their livelihoods. Shepherd Abdul Rasheed has been tending sheep on these plains for nearly three decades.
One of them, Abdul Rasheed, a shepherd, says: “Life was comfortable enough in the last 30 years, but now it has become tough. We do not have enough snowfall now and these mountains are burning. The snowfall or rainfall is erratic and out of season leading to deficient pastures. Falling levels of fresh fodder lead to disease in the cattle.”
A new study by Kashmir University’s Geology and Geophysics department says that climate change has endangered the livelihoods of two-thirds of the region’s 10 million people who are mainly engaged in agriculture, horticulture, livestock rearing and forestry.
According to a United Nations Environment Programme and World Glacier Monitoring Service study, the average melting rate of mountain glaciers has doubled since the turn of the millennium.
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