Vishav basin loses 1.6 acre forest per-day: KU study

Agriculture, water bodies, wetlands under threat
‘Fatal consequences’ feared

South Kashmir’s Vishav drainage basin has been losing dense forest cover and agricultural land at an alarming rate of 1.6 acre and 1.3 acre per day during the last two decades, a study has revealed.
According to the study, conducted at Kashmir University, the critical basin has lost 48 square kilometers (11861 acres) of dense forests and 39 Sq Km (9637 acre) of agricultural land from 1990 to 2010.
The Vishav drainage basin covering an area of 1083.48 sq km (10% of the Jhelum drainage basin) occupies the southeastern division of the Kashmir valley with its major part (80%) in Kulgam and Shopian districts along PirPanjal range.
Besides loss of a vital natural ecosystem, the reduction of agricultural land from 289.59 Sq.Km in 1990 to 250.59 Sq.Km in 2010 is threatening food security in the region.
The study titled “Changes in Land-Use/Land-Cover using geospatial techniques: A case study of Vishav drainage basin,” published in the June issue of ‘Journal of Geography and Regional Planning’, has highlighted similar downward trend towards water-bodies and wetlands of the basin.
The basin has lost 1.42 Sq.Kms of water-bodies and 0.20 Sq.Kms of wetlands during the two decades, the study has found.
The study was done by AadilManzoor Nanda, Rafiq Ahmad Hajam and Parvez Ahmad from Department of Geography and Regional Planning, and Aadil Hamid from department of Environmental Science at Kashmir University. They used geospatial techniques of remote sensing and Geographic Information System to study the land change.
The basic aim was to analyse the nature and extent of land-use/land-cover changes in Vishav watershed between 1990 and 2010 and identify the main forces behind them.
The degradation of forests and prime agricultural land has led to the increase of grassland and wastelands area from 8.66 sq.kms in 1990 to 17.11 sq.kms in 2010 respectively, the figures indicated. 
According to the study, the degradation of dense forests is giving way to spare forest 
cover whose area has increased to 175.71 sq.kms from 147.88 sq.kms during this period. Horticulture and built-up (settlements, road, tourist amenities) are two other main encroachers of the forest land.
The increase of population from 2,10,130 to 4,17,347 people during this period has contributed to the enormous pressure on the natural resources. With most of the population relying on wood for fuel, the higher demand for fuel wood has also speeded up the deforestation.
One of the positive trends found in the study has been the increase of snow and glacier cover by about 3.02 sq.kms. The area under snow and glaciers in 1990 was 133.31 sq.kms whereas the same had increased to 136.33 sq.kms in 2010.
During the same period, the area under horticulture has registered a significant increase from 166.38 Sq.Km in 1990 to 196.55 Sq.Km in 2010, therefore, showing an absolute change of 30.17 Sq.Km. The study has found that the people are more dependent on horticulture than any other sector of economic activity as there is almost absence of diversification of economic activities.
The study called for managing the land use/land cover (LULC) change dynamics and conserving the resources of the watershed through a regulated land-use planning for its sustainable development and demanded government take effective measures to save forests.
The study warned of dire consequences in future if nothing is done to stop this degradation. “Here proper LULC planning is needed; otherwise the results would be fatal for the environment of the area and the economy and health of the people in the near future,” the study concluded.

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