J&K Farmers a Worried Lot as Record-breaking Snowfall Damages Apple Orchards
Bhadarwah (J&K): Record-breaking snowfall has thrown life out of gear in Doda and adjoining districts in Chenab Valley with farmers and orchardists fearing huge financial losses.
The local meteorological department has figures for only 20 years after its establishment and such a heavy snowfall in the first week of November had happened for the first time in the past two decades, meteorologist Ramesh Sharma said.
Locals claim such a heavy snowfall has happened in the areas after more than four decades, catching them unprepared for the ensuing winter.
The snowfall in the inhabited areas, ranging from three inches to over three feet, was recorded in different areas of the district, forcing closure of Bhadarwah-Basohli highway, Kishtwar-Sinthan Top road and Bhadarwah-Chamba interstate road while many far-flung areas got cut-off, officials said.
The people complained about drinking water scarcity and virtual breakdown of electricity in majority of the villages.
"Bhadarwah valley experienced heavy snowfall in 1978 but after November 15. I have never witnessed snowfall in first week of November in the last 40 years," said Balwant Raj, 62, of panchayat Chinchora.
He said the early snowfall is not a good omen for farmers, cattle rearers and labour class as all the development and other construction works would be suspended till march, which means “we will get no work for five months and this a scary situation”.
Saif Din Dhakad, a farmer from village Kota Top-Kharangal of Bhallesa, said they were expecting a good yield this year as there was bumper maize crop but sudden and unseasonal snowfall shattered all their hopes as maize was still either in the fields or was kept on rooftops to dry but overnight snowfall on Saturday damaged everything.
Not only farmers and labour class but early snowfall also sent fruit growers in a tizzy. "Due to overnight snowfall most of our orchards got damaged as the snow is not only unseasonal but quite heavier than normal," Ahmed Mustafa of Upper Dhadhkai Bhallesa said.
He said normally pruning of fruit trees is performed in December after there is no leaf left on the trees because some variety of apple and walnut and persimmon only ripens by November end.
Horticulture development officer, Bhaderwah, Abid Hussain said they are assessing the damage caused by the snowfall. "Some variety of apples and persimmon were still on trees. We have activated the field staff to assess the damage," he said.
However, Hussain said the snow poses threat to only weak plants and would have no far-reaching consequences.
Deputy Superintendent of Police, Traffic, Zohaib Hassan said the main highway connecting Doda with the rest of state is open for traffic.
"Moderate to heavy snowfall was recorded from Thanalla to Khundi-Maral stretch, Thantera to Sarthal and Potato farm to Sinthan Top stretch on Bhadarwah-Chamba interstate road, Bhadarwah-Basohli highway and Kishtwar-Sinthan Top road respectively, due to which these roads have been closed for all type of vehicle traffic," he said.
However, he said Bhadarwah-Doda, Batote-Kishtwar and Thathri-Gandoh roads are open for traffic.
Chattar Gala on Bhadarwah-Basohli highway and Padri Gali on Bhadarwah-Chamba interstate road recorded three feet snow till 11 AM, while Kota Top received two feet, Dhadhkai 1.5 feet, Khanni Top 1.5 feet, Kansar one feet, Shankhoja eight inches, Chinchora seven inches and Bhadarwah town received three inch snow, the officer said.