“WATER AND CLIMATE CHANGE”
WORLD WATER DAY 2020
On this World Water Day, as countries gather and pledge, yet again, to protect water resources and understand the impact of climate change on water reservoirs, taking a road closer home, Adeela Hameed from Kashmir Images interacts with a renowned Kashmiri scientist to know more about the Valley’s freshwater reserves, climate change (CC) effects, and potential conservation techniques to be employed for a sustainable future. Professor Shakil Ahmad Romshoo, Co-ordinator, Department of Geoinformatics, University of Kashmir, awarded the ISRO Satish Dhawan National Award (2018) for his commendable contribution to development and application of space technology in the field of environmental sciences, talks in detail about events of global warming and their effect on pristine alpine lakes of our Valley.
Here are extracts of the conversation:
Although people believe climate change to be real, there are many who still don’t. What is your opinion on climate change being called hoax?
Being part of the environmental society, both by nature and profession, I strongly believe that the global climate is changing, unfortunately taking a turn for worse. People who don’t believe in climate change are, both, wrong and true. Wrong, because it is practically happening all around us. True, well, that’s related to the presence of human civilization. A couple eons ago, when human life had not yet formed, there was nobody to monitor or be affected by any climate disaster except for simple life forms. However, now with the establishment and proliferation of human beings, those impacts are widely known, confirmed, and have dire consequences. Climate change is only real when there is someone who bears the brunt.
Global warming has taken the world by storm. Now every country, directly or indirectly, is influenced by it. What impact does this climate catastrophe have on water bodies of our Valley?
Our valley is blessed with numerous, pristine water bodies in the form of lakes and rivers. These water reservoirs are mostly fed by natural springs and precipitation. The mountainous terrain of our Valley is composed of limestone rocks, scientifically known as Karst topography. These rocks undergo chemical weathering, i.e. erosion from naturally found inorganic substances, resulting in the formation of caves, caverns, and multiple underground conduits. In turn these geological formations hold water, snow and ice to naturally release the same when temperatures increase. Likelihood of replenishment of such reservoirs by rain or snow has decreased due to unprecedented warming in our Valley. Thus, the amount of water reaching rivers and lakes, when normal weather conditions would have prevailed reduces, leading to less flow. This ultimately affects vegetation and faunal diversity along the watershed of a region.
One of the major consequences of climate change is melting glaciers. Can you provide an assessment of how CC has had an impact on the Valley’s glaciers?
Glaciers contribute to about 10% of the total water reservoirs in the Valley, with snow leading at 50-60%, followed by rain at 25-30%. As such, glaciers don’t cater much to the water requirement of Kashmir. However, their existence is irreplaceable to maintain balance in the structure of our Valley’s environment. Increased incidence of warm winters and even warmer summers has resulted in depletion of glacial ice, far more quick than usual. As glaciers are not the only source of water for our Valley lakes and rivers, so their accelerated reduction goes unnoticed. Still there is a lot to be learnt about glacier morphology and health. Arduous climatic conditions have limited access to most glaciers in the Valley for research.
You might have visited a couple of alpine lakes during research. How would you define your experience?
Alpine lakes, usually 2500 m above sea level, are truly majestic. People describe Kashmir a paradise, most beautiful, with lakes so splendid, these take your breath away. Although Dal Lake and its counterparts are surely a treat, but alpine lakes take you to a whole new level of experiencing heaven. Clean, crisp, untouched, these lakes possess you. I have been to many, and those journeys instilled peace in me. I recommend a trek.
Kashmiris have been constantly reminded and taught to protect water bodies that exist in their neighbourhoods. Though most people understand, there is still a lot of work to do. What do you feel is necessary to protect water reserves in our Valley?
It is important for everyone to understand that this nature, we take and use, is our only supply of resources. There is no other Earth or an extra biosphere kept in reserve. So this is our only shot at life. Protection, conservation, and education are the key. Water conservation measures are to be strictly adopted by everyone, commercial and residential structures, alike. Most of all, the governing office should make sure to inculcate sustainable methods and regulations so that people comply. Many a research has been done on water conservation, some are still continuing. But what’s required is immediate action.
Water bodies close to human habitation can be handled and worked upon well. But what do you feel people should know about protecting alpine lakes and glaciers?
The best help is no help! It might be a bit brash but it is the truth. When people interfere with a naturally balanced system, it falls apart. Even if to ‘supposedly’ protect it. With alpine lakes and glaciers, a major advantage is that they are located way high for us to establish proper human colonies. Hence, are relatively safe from pollution and encroachment. The best way to keep these as they are is to not indulge.
Heading towards a new decade with innumerable problems afflicting our environment, required right now is conservation. For water to sustainably cater to the needs of our future generations, reduce use wherever possible, help replenish water reservoirs by planting trees, carpool to combat emissions, limit air travel, and protect environment as much as you can. For the truth that has been and forever will is, nature cannot be replaced nor its worth be diminished. Before we become artists of our destruction, before nature retaliates, it is better to invest in it, protect and preserve it.