Kashmir's heaviest snowfall in winter damages crops
12 March 2007
Indo-Asian News Service
Srinagar: Kashmir received the heaviest snowfall of the season Monday, perhaps delighting skiers and children who were sent home early but sent farmers into gloom with the untimely cold damaging crops and delicate fruit blossoms.For the first time this winter, Jammu and Kashmir's summer capital Srinagar and adjoining areas received moderate snowfall with higher reaches reporting heavy to very heavy snowfall.The health resort of Sonamarg in north Kashmir, which remains cut off from the rest of the Valley for six months during the winter, received four feet of snow while reports of heavy snow also came in from Pahalgam and Gulmarg.Local farmers maintained that the late, untimely March snow had damaged their oilseed and fodder crops while fruit growers said almond and other fruit blossoms also suffered.'My oilseed crop was in full bloom these days. Today's snowfall has damaged nearly 50 percent of my crop,' said Gull Rather, 32, a farmer in the Ganderbal town.Fruit growers had been expecting a bumper fruit produce this year, but Monday's snowfall dampened their spirits.'My almond orchard was in early bloom. The chilling snow has damaged the delicate almond flowers,' lamented Ali Muhammad, 55, a fruit grower in central Badgam district.Schools were affected too. Though a picturesque blanket of white covered everything, it was simply too cold for classes and many schools in the Valley were closed.'Despite their red noses because of the biting cold, I had difficulty containing children inside the classrooms. They wanted to go out and throw snowballs at each other,' said a teacher at the Burn Hall School in the city.But the government-owned schools, many of which are functioning in old dilapidated buildings, felt the brunt.'We had cold coming through the broken window panes and the children were very cold. We allowed children to go home earlier than usual,' said a teacher at a downtown government school.The strategic Srinagar-Jammu highway was closed for traffic today because of rain and landslides at Panthal near Ramban in the Jammu region. Today's snowfall has made prospects of an early road opening remote.Basharat Ahmad Dhar, divisional commissioner, told IANS that the administration was fully geared to clear snow and other emergencies.