Kashmiri Farmers Struggle Against Climate Change

Government dismisses local peoples' voices on environmental rehabilitation plans

About the Video: People from Shopian district in Jammu and Kashmir give testimony to climate change affecting the local environment. They say that in the past, the winters here used to be intensely cold. But today the temperatures are on the rise. The older inhabitants speak about how the snow has virtually disappeared. The soil has also become less fertile from lack of minerals and water. The local farmers have been forced to use two to three times more pesticides. They have been driven into desperation and have resorted to using illegal manures. Locals feel that the government is to be be blamed as it failed to protect their forests. The officials have neither consulted the communities of the area nor informed or provided them with information on the environmental change. Shopian has been left in the lurch.

The Community Correspondent says: Our Community Correspondent Nadeem Andrabi from Shopian district urges the government to rethink its approach towards the environment and community: "We want the government to work with us. Considering that our daily lives are most effected by the environmental changes, this is the least we can expect from the officials. There should be regular consultations from the government with the communities living in Shopian district. The research results should be shared. Alternative ways to continue our work on horticulture to make a living and to avoid any further harm to our precious environment should be discussed on a local level rather than in far away government offices."

The Issue: The forests of Jammu and Kashmir the forests have suffered a wide range of threats. A big part of the reason is the illegal felling of trees either by locals, militants or the government for land and wood. Also the movement of armed forces with heavy vehicles in the area is said to have destroyed the deep forests.

Environmentalist say that the loss of forests can affect natural rain patterns and lead to excessive rainfall or drought. As a result local production of food is adversely affected. Jammu and Kashmir used to have about 20,000 square km of forest in 2000. Statistics say that about 14,000 hectares have been damaged.

A short while ago the state government has started a scheme for reforestation. The aim is to regenerate woodland to mitigate the effects of climate change and to earn carbon credits under the U.N. Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation programme. The forests are expected to regrow in three or four decades. So far 3,000 hectares of woodland have been replanted.

Call to Action: Contrary to the claims of state government on successful development, in Jammu and Kashmir, every fifth citizen of the state falls Below Poverty Line (BPL). 22 lakh people live in rural areas. As these underprivileged communities rely on land for their livelihood, preserving the environment is most important to them and their livelihoods.They demand the government rehabilitate and reforest the area.

Related Links:

Bid to revive forests in Jammu and Kashmir (Alert Net)

Every 5th person of J&K is poor (Greater Kashmir)

Jammu and Kashmir Forest Department

Article by Julia Lechner 

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