By Zafar Iqbal
The tangible impacts of climate change are now witnessed even in those areas of South Asian region which are considered as habitat of ecosystem due to the abundance of natural resources. Like other areas of world, the weather pattern in Kashmir has changed so much so that people are experiencing in chilly and dry winter without rains and snowfall.
People paid special prayers for rain after a spell of dry and harsh weather conditions prevailing in the region since many months. People in Pakistan part of Kashmir on Wednesday offered Namaz e Istaska in small and big towns and remote areas. Prime Minster of Pakistani Azad Jammu and Kashmir Farooq Haider has appealed people to offer particular prayers for the end of harshly dry weather. Hundreds of residents, including the Prime Minister and his cabinet members of government of Pakistani controlled Kashmir, offered Namaz e Istakska in an open ground in the capital city, Muzaffarabad.
In Islam Namaz e Istaska (Pray for rain) is a special kind of prayer which is performed in the time of drought, in order to seek relief from God, so that God may send rain. Similar rituals were paid in other cities where parched citizens pray for rain and snowfall.
In various towns and cities in Pakistan and its administrated Kashmir arid weather has affected badly local population because of water scarcity in the region as most of the water sources have dried up and people are struggling to access for drinking water. Women have to walk for miles to bring water as all springs, streams, wells and other natural water sources have dried up where as water level in rivers, mini rivers and lakes are also shrinking.
In Azad Jammu and Kashmir most of the population rely for natural water sources, including rivers, springs and wells. According to World Bank More than 60 percent of the population still has no direct access to water supply. A 1998 census shows that only 34.58 percent of the rural population has access to piped water supply (house connection) while more than 65 percent fetch water from communal sources.
United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and Azad Kashmir Government under a project worth Rs. 493 million are jointly working to restore rural water supply system and improve the sanitation in the region.
The majority of water supply and sanitation systems in AJK (both rural and urban) were badly damaged by October 8, 2005 earthquakes. According to the Governments of AJK, a total of 1641 water supply schemes and sanitation system, were damaged and need to be rehabilitated or reconstructed.
The dry weather has also affected areas which are famous for torrentional rains and snowfall in winter, howevever, this year wave of dry weather is not finished even after beginning of one month of winter. The intensity of the dryness has even been witnessed on high mountainous areas which used to be covered with many feet high snow in the beginning of autumn in the past.
Most of the cities and towns and remote hilly areas are experiencing dry spell of weather. Rawalakot is tourist resort and have a beautiful lake in Banjosa, which during the recent years have attracted a large number of visitors form Pakistani cities like Lahore, Islamabad, and Karachi etc. Especially a large influx of visitors has been observed in the Rwalakot in summer and winter seasons after the military operation in Swat and other areas in Northern Pakistan which used to be tourist resorts in the past. The peaks of Lass Danna, Toli Peer, and Ganga Choti in Bagh District which are located at more than 7000-8000 feet over the altitude are still waiting for snowfall.
(The writer is freelance journalist and can be accessed at: firstname.lastname@example.org )