By Bilal Bashir Bhat

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Climate change is a major challenge facing our planet today. This is an all-encompassing threat that will pose significant environmental, economic, social and political challenges for years and decades to come.

It is scientifically least predictable, and its impacts are likely to affect adversely the vulnerable and poor people mostly, who have contributed least to the major causes of Climate Change.

Since the industrial revolution, the mean surface temperature of the Earth has increased and temperatures are likely to rise more, with serious impacts on biodiversity composition, tourism, agriculture, horticulture water regime, food security and livelihoods.

In the context of Jammu and Kashmir, which nestles in the fragile Himalayan Ecosystem; there are alarming fluctuations in climate, natural as well as human-induced, due to large scale deforestation, vehicular pollution, urbanization in the state leading to the warming trends.  The water stress, habitat loss, leading to change in insect population dynamics, the proliferation of unwanted weeds, owing to climate change are new challenges for the state.

 The mountains of Jammu and Kashmir play a key role in supporting the economy, which depends heavily on the water towers for hydropower, water supply, agriculture, horticulture and tourism. The lives and livelihood of the state are heavily dependent on the natural resources and climatic conditions.  Climate change concerns in the State are multifaceted encompassing floods, droughts, landslides, human health, biodiversity, endangered species, agriculture livelihood, and food security. 

     Agriculture is the most fundamentally life-sustaining of all human activities: sharp cutbacks in all other forms of well-being would be survivable for most people if only enough food could still be grown and distributed. Yet hundreds of millions of people—as of 2008, about 820 million—are chronically undernourished and at severe risk, if their access to food diminishes any further. It is not surprising that the possible impacts of climate change on agriculture and food security have been of concern ever since the scientific study of global warming began in earnest in the 1960s.

The state Jammu and Kashmir are fundamentally divided into three divisions namely as Jammu division, Kashmir division and Ladakh division having their own and distinct geographical outlook for their respective agro-climatic zones which in turn determine their cropping pattern and productivity of crops. Jammu and Kashmir are well known for its Paddy crop followed by maize, oilseeds pulses, vegetables fodder and wheat whereas in Jammu region the most eatable and produced crop is wheat which is followed by maize, paddy, pulses, oilseeds, etc whereas barley is the major cereal crop followed by wheat in Ladakh. Jammu and Kashmir have also got the monopoly in terms of Saffron crop (famous all over the world due to its quality).

Despite the structural changes taking place both at national and state level, agriculture has been the top priority at both the levels as this sector plays a strategic role in the process of economic development of Jammu and Kashmir and India, and on an average 70% of the population are still getting livelihood and employability from this sector coupled with its allied sectors as this sector contributes around 27% of the state’s income.

Presently the agriculture sector is contributing 13.7% of the GDP at the national level and at the state level, it is contributing around 21.09%. J&K has lost over 10 lakh kanals of agriculture land to iritic precipitation, changing anomalies in temperature which are caused by climate change, unplanned non-agricultural activities like raising of residential colonies, factories, brick kilns, shopping complexes and other commercial establishments.

This is happening despite sufficient laws in place which prohibit or restrict the conversion of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes. As per official data, Jammu and Kashmir had 8.47 lakh hectare agriculture land in 2005-06 which has shrunk to 7.94 lakh hectare till 2015-16. So, in decade farmland equivalent to 10,60,000 kanal stands illegally converted for non-agricultural activities across the state. Diversion of agricultural land is having adverse implication. It’s a direct threat to our food security.

The increasing growing gap between production and demand ultimately impact on common people who will witness a drop in their productivity and income levels. Thus, further worsening the poverty situation. In the long-run, there will be inflationary pressures as the price of food items will push up.

J&K agriculture is mostly monsoon based, but from the few decades, we have a lot of changes in climatic conditions. In winters we got a summer like a climate and in summers we have winter like climate, the iritic precipitation and changing anomalies in temperature have an effect on agricultural production in J&K.

Jammu and Kashmir State is a food deficit State. There is a big gap between the production of food grains and their consumption as a result State has to import about 07 lakh MTs of food grain every year. The Food grain production in Kashmir Division has touched 9.9 lakh M. Ts figure by the end of 2013-14.

The deficit in production in Kashmir Division is mainly due to geographical and climatic conditions as most of the area is mono-cropped. Another factor responsible for this is small and fragmented land holdings that minimize the scope of mechanization and other scientific practices for more production. Moreover, the conversion of agricultural land for Horticulture and other non-agricultural purpose is also contributing to this deficit. The government claims that it accords top priority to the agriculture sector. But it is just a claim as is evidenced from a shortfall in the produce and J and K has to mostly rely on other states to meet its food requirements.

The Economic Survey 2016 – 2017 reveals that all the signs of the growth in the sector have been discouraging as the government continues to ignore exploiting the available potential fully. Economic Survey report revealed that the state’s food shortage would grow as projected population would rise beyond 1.5 crores by 2020 with a decadal growth rate of 23.71 percent.

The problem is that agriculture is already overburdened and the gap between the demand and production of food grains is increasing.

While the state’s annual food grains production has rema­ined around 19 lakh metric tonnes, the demand has crossed 26 lakh metric tonnes with state’s population crossing 10.25 million mark. The gap in the production was just two lakh metric tonnes in 1980 when J&K’s population was 59.87 lakh.  The gap in production which was around two metric ton in 1980 has grown up to nine lakh metric tons and is met through imports.

The low production in the sector has now cast its effect on the JK economy. The share of agriculture to the State Gross Domestic Product has witnessed a steep fall from 56 percent in 1970 to 19 percent in 2013. “Growth in the agriculture still remains less than two percent and average growth rate of last seven years has been only 2.28 percent,” said the report. “…the growth rate in the sector is likely to come down to 1.44 percent. All this is not encouraging.” The report has attributed underdeveloped infrastructure including roads, inadequate marketing facilities, poor harvest resulting in wastage and crop loss to weeds, insects and diseases as a cause for low production.

The potential future effects of global climate change include more increase in temperature, intense rainfall, floods, wildfires, longer periods of drought, windstorms, snowstorms, hailstorms, landslides, floods, droughts, disease, etc. which will affect badly on the agricultural allied sectors in J&K. Agriculture will have to be in the center of all priorities for meeting our ever-growing needs of food, nutrition and household security. Dwindling agricultural practices causing food scarcity also leads to socio-economic and political conflicts. 

The state importing grains from other states as no efficient policy is in place to reverse the situation. The changing climate will create havoc in the future if the same trend continues. With increasing water crisis, population explosion and climate change, the import of grains is going to be an uphill task in the future and will further widen the already stressed fiscal deficit. Dozens of colonies are coming up on agricultural land in different parts of the state. The law enforcement agencies, climate change adaptations need to curb the menace before the problem assumes horrendous proportions.

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