‘RETHINK POWER PROJECTS ON UNSTABLE SLOPES'
Kashmir Life|January 21-27, 2021
Dr Irfan Rashid, a Senior Assistant Professor at the University of Kashmir’s Department of Geoinformatics has the distinction of being the first INSA (Indian National Science Academy), Young Scientist Awardee in Earth and Planetary Sciences from Jammu and Kashmir. His research focuses on glacier-climate interactions, glacier-related hazards, alpine vegetation dynamics and lake and wetland ecosystems. In an interview with Umar Mukhtar, he talked about the issues of development, hydropower and climatic change
Umar Mukhtar

KASHMIR LIFE (KL): How has climate change impacted Kashmir? Or has it?

Irfan Rashid (IR): The impact of climate change on Jammu and Kashmir is very clear. There is a plethora of scientific literature on the impact of climate change on glaciers, vegetation, agriculture, incidence and frequency of extreme weather events, and livelihoods. Research has shown that the glaciers in the Jammu and Kashmir region are melting at comparatively higher rates compared to other parts of the Hindukush-Himalaya-Karakoram region.

For example, the Kolahoi glacier is one of the fastest retreating glaciers in Kashmir whose snout is depleting at ~50 m per year. Drang Drung, a 23 km long glacier in Zanskar, is retreating at ~60 m per year. Many other glaciers are showing similar recession patterns and higher mass loss.

Climate change is also affecting the vegetation distribution and composition in the region that includes the shift of treeline and proliferation of invasive species in otherwise pristine landscapes. The erratic weather patterns over Kashmir like the untimely snowfall that Kashmir experienced in November of 2018 and 2019 dented the apple industry. Even the Chillai Kalaan of 2021 was very harsh considering the climatological record of the last three decades.

KL: This winter was the harshest since 1991. Can we relate it to climate change or there could be other factors as well?

IR: Climatic change does not mean warmer temperatures only. It is, as I said, also associated with increased frequency of extremes, in this case extremely low temperatures that were experienced across Kashmir during January. However, more research needs to be done to see the impact of climatic change on atmospheric circulation patterns including western disturbance over Jammu and Kashmir.

KL: Over the years we have seen the shift in our four seasons and delayed precipitations. Why is it so?

IR: Any change in the atmospheric circulation patterns (westerlies and monsoons) operating over the Jammu and Kashmir region can have implications on temperature, precipitation, and seasonality. Though there are global factors like greenhouse gas emission responsible for this but there could be local forcing factors like anomalously high black carbon aerosols and land system changes (specifically deforestation and urbanization) that might affect regional weather regimes and their seasonality. However, it needs to be researched further.

KL: Since our glaciers are melting at a very fast pace, how will it impact our environment?

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