Global warming deprives Koh-i-Sufaid of its peculiarity of remaining snow clad throughout year

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Adeel Saeed

PESHAWAR, June 30 (APP)::Koh-i-Sufaid, a mountain range straddling between Pakistan and Afghanistan at bordering areas of Kurram district of erstwhile tribal area, has lost its peculiarity of remaining snow clad throughout the year mainly due to global warming caused by climate change.

An offshoot of Hindu Kush range and spreading over an area of around 100 miles (160 kilometers), Koh-i-Sufaid forms a natural border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Its peaks remain covered with snow throughout the year and in winter the whole hilly terrain gives a look of a giant feature wearing white tunic from tip to toe.

The magnificence of Koh-i-Sufaid could be gauged from the fact that a large mural of the mountain is displayed at the main hall of the Governor House Khyber Pakhtunkwa for the appraisal of visitors about rich landscape of the tribal region of Pakistan.

The mountain is also called in local Pashto language as `Spin Ghar’ (white mountain) and according to elders of Kurram district the folklore behind naming of this mountain is its white color due to snow draped peaks.

A local poet while reflecting changes in appearance of Koh-i-Sufaid due to reduction in snow wrote a poem an ode of which reads as `Zamana badal Giya Hai, Koh-i-Sufaid nai be rang badal dia hai’ (Time has been changed and testimony to this fact is that Koh-i-Sufaid has also changed its colours).

The mountainous range has great emotional attachment with dwellers of Kurram Agency who proudly make its comparison with Nile river of Egypt.

“As river Nile is to Egyptians, Koh-i-Sufaid is to the denizens of Kurram valley,” remarked Zulfiqar Ali, a Peshawar based journalist who belongs to Parachinar, capital of Kurram.

The highest peak of the Koh-i-Sufaid mountain range is Mount Sikaram Sar with an elevation of 4,761 meters (15,620 feet) while other peaks include Agam Sar (14,300 feet) and Badina Sar (13,500 feet).

A crossing near Sikaram Sar is called Piewar-Kotal or Gawi Pass which connects Parachinar city with Aryob valley of Paktia province of Afghanistan.

The climate of Kurram remains pleasant most of the summer and in winter minimum temperature is usually below freezing point, occasionally mercury drops below -10 degree Celsius.

“The mountainous region in our Parachinar city remained snow covered throughout the year, but now for the last several years the hills turn black from white in summer season thus reflecting changes in weather,” observed Azmat Ali Zai, a local journalist of Parachinar.

Azmat, 42 years old, vividly remembers heavy snow fall in Parachinar city during winter season bringing life to a standstill and forcing people to remain indoor. The snow on mountains was enormous, he recalled.

People used to arrange food stocks in winter at their homes even in Central Kurram valley owing to shortage of edibles in markets due to roads blockade because of heavy snow.

Being a major source of water supply, the lives of farming community of Kurram district revolved around Koh-i-Sufaid and decisions about selection of crops to be sowed were taken on basis of observation of quantum of snow, he informed.

Due to sudden reduction in water supply in parts of Kurram tribal district induced by climatic changes, quarrel among farmers on dispute over water distribution for fields irrigation also started cropping up.

Haji Ejaz, a farmer by profession and dweller of Sadra village in Parachinar, hankered for days when he used to earn a handsome earning by utilizing all of his four acres of agricultural land in rice farming.

“The normal yield from half an acre of land was around 20 to 25 mounds which were sold in market at a price of around Rs. 2500 per mound,” Haji Ejaz told APP.

Due to high demand of Kurram rice in markets of Pakistan and adjacent Afghanistan, the commodity was received by grain merchants with both hands on cash payment basis, recalled Haji Ejaz.

However, for the last few years after facing water scarcity in the area, Haji Ejaz is forced to reduce rice farming from full to half of his land and utilizing remaining area on cultivation of less water intensive crops including moong (a kind of pulse) and soybean.

Both the crops are less profit generating in comparison with rice thus reducing the monthly income of Haji Ejaz.

The yield of rice crop over remaining half acres of land is also reduced from normal 25 mounds to 15 mounds, further negatively impacting the income of Haji Ejaz and other farmers in Kurram district of FATA having a population of 619553.

About reasons behind dwindling water supply in the area, Ejaz simply said reduced snow on Koh-e-Sufaid, the lifeline of agriculture and economy of Kurram Agency.

Majority of farmers in Kurram prefer rice farming because of its increasing demand and good price in market, Zulfiqar added.

He said Kurram rice, locally called as `Kurram Rujje’ or `Kurmawalay Wrazey’ was a very popular dish in the region and was also liked by people of other areas.

The coarse rice of Parachinar have a unique taste which locals believe is because of mineral contents in glacial water of Koh-i-Sufaid.

“Reason behind reduction in snow on Koh-e-Sufaid is global warming causing glacial melting,” comments Mushtaq Ahmad, Director Meteorological Department Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Talking to APP, Mushtaq said changes in weather timings and global warming had reduced ice compaction as a result of which snow was melting early and mountain started changing colors.

Earlier in 90’s, snow fall started in October and continued till April end. Due to heavy snowfall, compaction of ice was strong and the mountain’s peaks remained covered even in the hot months of summer season, Mushtaq added.

However, now for the last more than one decade the temperature is changing and the month of October also remain tropical.

“The snowfall period is reduced from seven months (October to April) to three months (December to late February) as a result of which the ice melts,” Mushtaq explains.

He said heavy snow provided maximum water to the region and now a number of nullahs and springs had been dried up due to shortage of water.

Reduction in snow on Koh-e-Sufaid was not only affecting the crops but also rich flora and fauna of the region, Mushtaq said adding, “the dwellers of Kurram also grow different fruits in orchids which are also being affected due to irregular weather pattern including rains and strong storms, Mushtaq told APP.

If water availability continued to dwindle, it would have very negative impact on economy and agriculture of Kurram valley where majority of locals were associated with farming and due to their preference on rice farming were highly dependent on proper supply of water, he warned.