SRINAGAR: January this year has not yet witnessed rain or snowfall, the first time since 1980, raising concern among farmers, especially paddy growers, about availability of water during the ensuing summer.
The farmer's prayers for rain or snow might get answered as a Meteorological department official said with prediction of fairly widespread rains or snowfall in Kashmir tomorrow, this January might not end completely dry.
"The forecast of downpour in the Valley on Monday is the strongest we have this month," the official told PTI.
"There has been no rain or snowfall in Kashmir since the New Year's eve. This is the longest dry period in the month of January since 1980," he said.
"Weather system in Kashmir changed rapidly during January this year. There was forecast of rain or snowfall several times during the month, but a set of changes took away the possibility," the official said.
In stark contrast to this January, during the first month of last year, Kashmir recorded 162.2 millimetres of rain and snow. January 2017 was the wettest in the last 38 years in Kashmir.
In 2006, Kashmir had received 134 mm precipitation in form of rain and snow.
Since 1980, there were only three years -- 2015, 2007 and way back in 1986 -- when the downpour in January did not cross double digits.
Snowfall during December and January, the 40-days of harshest winter period known as 'Chillai Kalaan', when the chances of rain and snowfall is the highest -- is critical for agriculture and horticulture sectors in Kashmir Valley.
This is because, snow accumulated in higher reaches of the Valley melts during summer, feeding water to rivers and streams which is used for irrigation.
However this time, with very little snow even in the mountains, water scarcity is going to be a big issue if the weather continues to remain dry in the coming weeks.
"I think this summer, the agriculture produce, especially paddy, will be badly affected due to scarcity of water for irrigation at the sowing time. Prolonged dry weather can lead to drought-like situation," a farmer from Budgam district said.
Relying on traditional knowledge, he said normally a dry January is followed by heavy rains or snowfall in February.
"We hope that February will bring the much-needed relief," the farmer said.
According MeT department data, the average downpour during February over the past 17 years has been around 25 to 30 mm.
Farmers growing fruits and vegetables are also a worried lot as lack of rains and snow have resulted in apple and other fruit-bearing trees showing signs of drying up.
"Although trees do not need much water during winter, the dryness of the land can lead to death of trees. Water table is dropping and it will be difficult for the trees to draw water when spring sets in," an orchardist in Bandipora said.
Officials in the state agriculture department said dry weather was a cause of concern, but it has not reached alarming proportions yet.
"We still have almost two months of winter left. Let's hope and pray it rains soon," an agriculture department official said.