In a recent research article published in the renowned international journal GeoJournal, Dr. Mohammad Sarfaraz Asgher and his team from Jammu University’s Department of Geography shed light on the significant vulnerability of the hill towns of Kishtwar and Ramban to climate change.
The paper titled “Assessing the vulnerability of livelihoods to climate variability in the Himalayan region: a district-level analysis of Jammu province, India” presents a comprehensive assessment of the impact of climate variability in the region.
Climate Vulnerability in Jammu: Urgent Interventions Required
The study, which considered 25 parameters including temperature deviations, rainfall patterns, infrastructure availability, population of indigenous tribes, and sensitivity to climate change, examined changes in mountainous districts over a period of three decades.
The findings revealed that Kishtwar and Ramban ranked first and second, respectively, in terms of vulnerability, with vulnerability scores of 0.65 and 0.64 according to the Vulnerability Index (VI).
One notable observation highlighted in the research paper is the variation in average maximum temperatures at different locations. The study noted a decrease in average maximum temperatures in Katra, Bhaderwah and Jammu over the years. By contrast, Batote and Banihal experienced an increase in average maximum temperatures during the same period.
The implications of this vulnerability are significant, as changing weather patterns directly impact the livelihoods of communities residing in these mountainous areas. It calls for urgent attention and appropriate measures to meet the challenges posed by climate change and safeguard the well-being of affected populations.
Dr Asgher, Associate Professor and co-author of the research paper emphasized the importance of the findings, saying: “The high vulnerability scores of Kishtwar and Ramban indicate the urgent need for targeted interventions in these areas. It is crucial to consider factors such as temperature deviations, changes in precipitation, and existing infrastructure when formulating strategies to mitigate the impacts of climate change.
Climate Impacts in Jammu
Jammu district exhibited the lowest vulnerability score of 0.25, indicating comparatively lower vulnerability to climate change impacts. The study also highlighted that districts like Jammu and Kathua, while having lower vulnerability scores, are still susceptible to geoclimatic threats such as floods and heat waves.
The vulnerability scores of other districts in the region were as follows: Kathua (0.42), Samba (0.53), Rajouri (0.54), Udhampur (0.57), Doda (0.58), Reasi (0.61) and Poonch (0.62). These results underscore the increased vulnerability of the mountainous and remote districts of Jammu province to climate variability and change.
The impacts of this vulnerability are particularly evident on local livelihoods, with agriculture and related activities being significantly affected. These sectors, which involve approximately 70% of the population directly or indirectly, face considerable challenges due to changes in weather patterns.
Climate Variability impacts livelihoods in Jammu Province
Characterized by diverse agro-climatic conditions ranging from subtropical plains to temperate Pir Panjal, Jammu province offers an environment conducive to a variety of agricultural practices.
However, irregular rainfall patterns and other pressures have hampered agricultural production in the region. Population pressure on the agricultural sector is also high, with disparities in the distribution of arable land across the province, favouring the outer plains over the Pir Panjal region.
According to Dr. Mohammad Sarfaraz Asgher, the effects of climate variability and change in Jammu province have resulted in decreased crop production, reduced yields and altered planting times. Depletion of groundwater resources, crop infestations, and failures have added to the challenges farmers face.
Livestock have also been affected, with animals experiencing heat stress and limited access to suitable pasture, leading to declining livestock populations and the emergence of new diseases. The horticulture sector has also witnessed changes as crop locations have shifted from flat areas to mountainous regions due to changing weather conditions.
The Asgher Climate Vulnerability Study highlights that, in addition to factors such as reliance on agriculture for livelihoods and the population of indigenous communities, the high vulnerability observed in Ramban and Kishtwar districts could be attributed to the development of social infrastructure, inadequate human and economic compared to the plains districts of Jammu and Kathua.
Insufficient facilities that support essential services such as healthcare, education, and housing contribute to the vulnerability of these areas. The districts’ rugged terrain, higher elevations, and limited arable land exacerbate the challenges faced by the local population. The study also points to significant climate changes, with hotter summers and colder winters affecting residents who are less equipped to adapt to these changes.
Vulnerability: Hilly vs. Plains
The research paper of Dr. Mohammad Sarfaraz Asgher and his team concludes by highlighting the reasons for higher vulnerability in the hilly districts and lower vulnerability in the plains of Jammu province.
The study claims that flat areas such as Jammu and Kathua are less vulnerable to climate change due to their better infrastructure and socio-economic conditions. In contrast, districts situated in high-altitude mountainous terrain, such as Ramban and Kishtwar, are more vulnerable due to low levels of social, human and economic infrastructure development and diverse physiographic and climatic conditions.
The study emphasizes that these districts, located far from urban centers and with difficult terrain, require special attention from planners and policymakers to mitigate the impact of climate change on people’s livelihoods.
The study also notes that Jammu province is home to various indigenous groups, such as the Gujjar, Bakarwal, Gaddis and Sippis, who make up almost 20% of the region’s total population.
These groups mainly depend on agriculture and livestock for their livelihoods and live in poor housing conditions, making their livelihoods highly vulnerable to climate change.
Decrease in average maximum temperature
The research team stressed the importance of socio-economic infrastructure planning not only in the mountainous regions of Jammu but also in other parts of the Himalayas. They identified several weather stations, including Katra in Reasi, Bhaderwah in Doda, and Batote and Banihal in Ramban, which have experienced a rainfall deficit over the past three decades. By contrast, Jammu, Samba and Rajouri showed increased rainfall during the same period.
The study also revealed a decrease in average maximum temperature in Katra, Bhaderwah and Jammu between 1987 and 2019. However, Batote and Banihal in Ramban exhibited an increase in average maximum temperature over the same time period. Furthermore, Jammu showed a positive trend in the average minimum temperature, indicating a decrease in the average minimum temperature.
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