Valley water worries
Amid climatic changes the depleting water resources has come up as a major challenge in the Valley as most of the water schemes have been hit by the weather vagaries
The Kashmir Valley is facing an unprecedented water crisis, with more than 700 water schemes badly hit because of the ongoing dry spell.
The depleting water resources have severely impacted life in rural Kashmir, particularly north of the Valley, and the department has now pressed into service tankers at many places to supply drinking water. “Our water resources are at the lowest. It is a drought-like situation and we are hardly able to manage the supplies in Srinagar and other places,” said a senior official in the public health engineering department. Admitting that villages in northern areas of Kashmir and some parts in the central areas have been badly hit, the official said that of 1690 water supply schemes, more than 700 schemes have been affected by the water scarcity. Struggling to meet the demand, the department has now worked out a curtailment schedule as the water crisis continues to deepen. In Kashmir, the dry spell has continued for months. Last summer Kashmir received only 10mm of rainfall. The normal rainfall between September and December is 100mm. This scanty rainfall caused Jhelum river, the lifeline of Kashmir, to reportedly dip to its lowest level of less than one foot at Sangam gauge last month, the lowest in its recorded history. The Jhelum, which originates in Anantnag, and runs through Srinagar and various northern areas, covering around 200 kms, is a major source of drinking water and irrigation.
The Met department officials said that analysis of weather data of the past decade shows that dry spells are emerging as a trend. Officials are therefore focussing on setting up tube wells to tap underground water resources for meeting the demand. Another reason for the present water crisis is the long delay in completion of government of India-funded water schemes. Under the National Rural Drinking Water Programme (NRDWP), the previous UPA-led Congress government had approved more than 2511 schemes, 934 schemes for Kashmir and 1566 schemes for Jammu, to ensure regular supply of drinking water to people. But till date only 232 schemes have been completed. An official, however, said the union government has cut down the funding under the program and directed the state government to first complete the already taken up schemes before fresh further money can be released. “This has led to the delay in completion of the program,” said another official.
A senior official of public health engineering department Kashmir said that the long dry spell has affected the water sources, including the springs and underground water table. Data shows that of 1600 water schemes including 600 lift schemes for supplying drinking water to around 82000 lakh souls in Kashmir division, at least 60 percent of these schemes have been “badly hit”. “The water sources for these schemes including rivers, nallah, streams are running at the lowest. We are facing an unprecedented situation due to continued dry weather. Most of the sources of drinking water have been hit,” Chief Engineer PHE Abdul Wahid told Greater Kashmir. While Kashmir receives around 210 mm of precipitation during winter, this season, except for 37 mm snowfall on December 10 and 11, this winter has remained dry and warmer, much to the worries of climatologists. The snowfall during December and January is crucial as it gets stored in frozen form and starts melting during spring to replenish various tributaries and streams, which ultimately charge up the rivers. Such has been the drastic fall in the water level in rivers including Jhelum, the main source of drinking water and irrigation in Kashmir that the department has been changing location along its course for diverting water into different schemes. Owing to acute water shortage, many water plants including Sukhnag plant which caters need of around 3 lakh people of north-western part of Srinagar and 70 villages of Budgam, are running dry. Similarly Doodganga stream that feeds around 3.5 lakh people is “almost running dry”.
In Srinagar, authorities have created a temporary blockade on Jhelum near Chattabal to maintain a “minimum possible water level” in the river body. “Otherwise Jhelum will look like a drain,” said an official. The downstream area of Jhelum which includes entire north Kashmir has suffered the brunt as most of the lift schemes for supplying drinking water are have almost been non-functional owing to “very low water level” in Jhelum. “We are heading for worst if Kashmir doesn’t receive any snowfall this winter,” said the official. Climatologists have been arguing that this snowless winter and scanty rainfall received during last summer was an outcome of “significant” rise in temperature. This rise in temperature doesn’t allow western disturbance – an extra-tropical storm which develops over the Mediterranean Sea and brings rain to north and northwest India – to settle over Kashmir which leads to precipitation. Last summer too witnessed a scanty rainfall that caused Jhelum, the lifeline of Kashmir, to dip to its lowest level of less than one foot at Sangam gauge in October 2017, the lowest in its recorded history.
Data obtained from IMD suggest that due to the rise in temperature, Kashmir has been witnessing a “shift in direction of the western disturbance by around 700 kilometers towards north”. The worry is that the drift is increasing, said Mir. This may well explain why temperature has more than doubled this winter. Take for example Srinagar, where against an average temperature of 6.9°C, the temperature on January 21 touched 14.1°C. It rose to 14.2°C the next day. The impact is more visible in popular hill stations. On January 22, the mercury touched 8.8°C in Gulmarg. It was 22 times higher than the average temperature of 0.4°C. Similarly, in Pahalgam, the village of shepherds with breathtaking scenery, the temperature reached 11.9°C against an average of 4.2°C. This pattern has been recorded throughout this winter. Today, the slopes of Gulmarg and Pahalgam, which would receive 5-8 feet of snow, drawing skiers from abroad, are nearly barren. Data suggest that a dry December was “rare” in the Valley and during first 90 years of the last century, the years 1902, 1953, 1966 and 1980s witnessed the change. But this cycle has repeated at least nine times during the past 28 years. “We are exploring new sources of water and have put into service around 102 tankers to tide over the problem,” said Wahid.
Blurbs: Such has been the drastic fall in the water level in rivers including Jhelum, the main source of drinking water and irrigation in Kashmir that the department has been changing location along its course for diverting water into different schemes
Data suggest that a dry December was “rare” in the Valley and during first 90 years of the last century, the years 1902, 1953, 1966 and 1980s witnessed the change. But this cycle has repeated at least nine times during the past 28 years