In the mighty Himalayan mountains range lies Kashmir, a unique and fragile eco-system, where people are heavily dependent on their natural environment for their sustenance. This rare temperature region in the Indian sub-continent draws about 70 per cent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) from the surrounding ecological resources. Livelihood of more than 75 per cent Kashmiris is dependent on horticulture, agriculture and handicrafts with the raw material for these being mostly drawn from the natural environment itself. A major land reform in the early 1950s makes Kashmir the first region in the sub-continent to have undertaken equitable redistribution of land. Kashmir is one of the few regions in South Asia which has not faced large scale hunger since the last half a centaury or so. The main reason for this has been good food security due to highly fertile land and abundant water resources. Even though agriculture cannot take credit for the total food security, earning from non-agriculture produce to a segment of population that owns land has been ensuring absence of hunger.
Over the years, as a result of certain environmental changes like erratic rain and snowfall and fast receding glaciers due to climate change, water is becoming more scare. Farmers, especially the poor who own very small holdings are compelled to shift from agriculture to rain-fed farming and livestock is facing an uncertain future.
The easy discernible impact of climate change is the fast melting and receding of glaciers in Kashmir. Some 40 years ago during summers, women from Srinagar outskirt areas of Dhara and Harwan (barely 15 kms in the mountains in the east) would make their livelihood out of selling ice (locally known as Yakh) in Srinagar city obtaining from glaciers there. They would roam through the city and sing in Kashmiri, ‘Wai Yakho! Kamyu Van Volmukh! Ha Yakho, Andrei Golkho Yakho! (Oh ice! I marvel what forest I fetch you from? Don’t melt from inside). For decades, Kashmiri’s most cherished traditional ice cream maker- Ama Sofi- and his ice suppliers made their livelihood selling traditional ice cream in Srinagar Bhori Kadal area, with the same ice. Today there are no glaciers in the summer months. Now women selling ice and Ama Sofi selling traditional ice cream from glaciers in Srinagar city are history.
Courtesy: On the brink? A Report on Climate Change and its Impact in Kashmir By Arjimand Hussain Talib