Srinagar: Heavy rains and early snowfall in parts of Kashmir valley’s plains have triggered concern among the farmers, especially in the apple sector, which was at the peak of its harvesting season.
Farmers in South Kashmir’s Shopian, where the apple trade is central to the economy, say that trees in several orchards have been damaged due to fresh snowfall in Saloo, Hirpora and Keller.
“Early snowfall is proving to be devastating for the people of Shopian. It is heart-wrenching to see a year’s hard work being washed away. Snow is destroying the apples as well as the apple trees,” Habeel Iqbal, a resident of Shopian, said.
Kashmir valley is witnessing what many are calling now an early onset of winter, as temperatures have dipped suddenly since the past one week. The region’s hill stations, such as Gulmarg, Pahalgam, and Sonmarg, have reported the season’s first snowfall, with terming it as climate change.
Due to the fresh rains, the arterial Srinagar-Jammu highway has been affected at several places in Ramban and Banihal due to landslides and shooting stones. Similarly, the roads connecting Srinagar to Pir Panjal valley along the Mughal Road and Ladakh through Zojila Pass have been closed for vehicular movement.
At least seven nomadic Bakerwal families are reported to have been stranded in Nambian pastures of the Singerwani area of Pulwama district, following which the district administration has issued directions for their rescue.
The Meteorological Department (MeT) had issued an advisory regarding the weather forecast, following which the department of horticulture had directed farmers and fruit growers to speed up harvesting.
The Director-General of Horticulture Ajaz Bhat, had issued a seven-point advisory to farmers, which included harvesting of apples and pruning of trees to avoid damage. The farmers, however, say that they could not have done so much in just four days.
According to official data, of the total 4.56 crore fruit-bearing trees in Kashmir, a majority produce varieties of apples, with one of the most popular harvested during late October. The 8,000 crore apple industry in Kashmir contributes about 8% to the J&K’s gross domestic product (GDP), with over three million people directly or indirectly dependent on the trade.
What worries the farmers is not the effect of weather on the apple produce but the damage to the apple trees that are yet to be pruned and have foliage intact. “The damage to trees is more devastating and has an effect on the next year’s produce as well,” a farmer from Anantnag Ghulam Hassan said.
This is the third consecutive year that the apple crop has faced hurdles against a smooth harvest. Since 2019, early snowfall and enforced lockdown in the aftermath of abrogation of Article 370 and 35 A had damaged nearly 35% of the produce, affecting overall trade.
3 Members of Nomadic Tribe Killed in Tral
PTI adds: The snowfall and rains triggered a mudslide that hit a tent set up by nomads in Noorpora in the Tral area of Pulwama district, leaving three persons, including two women dead, and one critically injured, officials said.
The nomads belonged to Reasi district in the Jammu division, they added.
Meanwhile, CPI(M) leader M Y Tarigami expressed concern over the losses caused to orchardists by the untimely snowfall and demanded immediate compensation for them.
“A large number of fruit-bearing trees are reported to have suffered damages due to unseasonal snowfall, witnessed in several parts of Kashmir valley. Reportedly 50 percent fruit crop was yet to be harvested in twin districts of Shopian and Kulgam. There should be an immediate assessment of losses suffered by the orchardists,”Tarigami said in a statement.
He said the government must depute expert teams to assess the losses, especially in south Kashmir which has been the worst hit.
He also expressed grief over the death of three members of a nomadic family in Tral.