Srinagar: The winter chill in Kashmir Valley is on a continuous surge as temperature continues to dip disrupting life further in the region leading the government to announce winter vacations for all government and private schools here from Tuesday.
The government’s Education Department announced the winter break for students from both primary and higher classes in view of the prevailing weather conditions from December 10 till February 22.
The weather, according to Meteorological Department, is expected to worsen further from Wednesday and the weather department has predicted rain and snowfall in the region for at least two consecutive days.
Due to the inclement weather conditions, thousands of passengers have been left stranded in Srinagar as all in and outbound flights were canceled for fourth consecutive day due to disruption caused by an impairing fog here from the last few days.
“The flights are being canceled due to less visibility and heavy fog for the last four days,” an official at the Srinagar airport said.
Nearly 100 flights have been affected due to the weather condition at Srinagar airport causing discomfort to air passengers. According to officials, close to 30 flights operate on a daily basis at the airport which is the only flying route for the civilians of the Valley.
Even as the road traffic has resumed on all major regional highways, commuters continue to face inconvenience owing to unpredictability in the weather forecast. The 300-km long arterial highway between Srinagar to Jammu often gets closed in view of heavy precipitation that results in road blockade, shooting stones and erosion.
The severe fog conditions also disrupted ground visibility for vehicles plying inside the Valley, increasing traffic snarls across the major roads and highway areas.
As the region freezes under sub-zero temperature, the fog has also affected shopkeepers and other business establishments, which remained open in the early hours till midday in the wake of shutdown against the prolonged crisis since August 5, when Article 370 was abrogated. The shops open later than usual due to the lack of visibility.
The region witnessed an early onset of winter after snowfall covered Valley early November restricting people’s movement for days. During the first snowfall, many accused the new UT administration of responding late to the crisis.
Expansion in horticulture land
Many claim the intensity of fog has been ‘unprecedented’; something being witnessed for the first time in the Valley, invoking concerns among environmentalists.
Environmental expert Shakil Romshoo says even as the fog in a valley like Kashmir is normal, but the amount of particulate matter present in the air currently is worrisome.
“On December 3, the amount of particulate matter (PM) present in the air was 232 PM per square meters but the valley experienced an exemplary rise to 500 PM per square meter on Monday, which is 5-6 times higher than normal standards,” Romshoo says. The rising PMs in the air, Romshoo adds, is an indication of increased air pollution in the region.
Romshoo, who heads the department of earth sciences at University of Kashmir, says the increase in fog days in the region with higher levels of PM are a result of expansion in horticulture produce.
According to him, from the last four decades, the horticulture sector has increased around 27 times in the region and orchardists this time prune trees after securing their harvest. “The orchardists resort to slash burning of the pruned material to collect charcoal which emanates dust and smoke in the air,” Romshoo claims.