Srinagar, Kashmir, India — It seems that global warming is taking its toll on the forests of Valley. The forest fires that have raged through the region have unexpectedly started from the month of August. Reason – global warming?
“Circumstantial evidence suggests that global warming has attributed to increased number of forest fire incidents around the Valley,” Prof Zafar Reshi, Terrestrial Ecologist at Department of Botany, University of Kashmir said. Though nobody has collected strong data regarding the impact of global warming in triggering forest fires, he said.
The Department of Geography, University of Kashmir revealed that Valleys temperature has risen by 0.5 degree Celsius due to global warming. The Indian Institute of Science, (IISC) Bangalore has also assessed that Valley forests will be affected considerably by the warming of earth.
“It is by far a substantial increase in temperature and an indicator that global warming is showing its effect on the ground,” Reshi added.
The valley is experiencing a drought like condition from August, thus extending the forest fire season by two months. Researchers around the world suggest that this extreme climatic condition coupled with extension of drought period have resulted in increased incidents of fires across the world.
According to Chief Conservator Forests, Adul Razzaq Khan, at present fires are on at least more than three forest divisions in Kashmir region. He said the fires started much before the autumn.
“Without any doubt, the number of forest fires has increased this year as compared to last year,” Khan said. “The unusually prolonged drought season has contributed towards the forest fires.”
This year, the humidity has gone down to 25 per cent, which normally remains at 60 per cent.
Khan said in last 20 days there were 40 fire incidents across the Valley.
The fluctuating temperatures due to global warming have resulted in change of the seasons around the world. With spring coming earlier, snow melting faster and forests drying out sooner, they make the perfect conditions for the fire to spread.
Nadim Qadri, an environmentalist said the global warming is playing its role in forest fires.
“Due to uncertainty in weather conditions, everything has changed. We have observed that leaf fall starts in some trees in pre-autumn seasons. The uncertainty in weather is such that sometimes it rains heavily which is followed by an extended period of drought,” he said.
Scientists say that persistent droughts can lead to more fire incidents, as intermittent period of rains will allow the vegetation grow as fodder for the fires.
“The magnitude of fires is expected to increase in future further,” Qadri said.
The authorities seem unconcerned about the end result of the global warming on the ecology of the Kashmir. Until now no research or measures have been taken by the State academia to study the concern. Only IISC Bangalore, to some extent, has studied the effects of this phenomenon.