For long known as a land of lakes, streams and rivers, Kashmir is facing an acute water shortage these days because of an unprecedented dry spell. More than 500 springs in the valley have shrunk dangerously.
The drying up of the springs - the only source of potable water for thousands of residents in the villages - has forced people to queue up for water tankers of the public health engineering (PHE) department here.
Advertisement"We are regularly supplying potable water to thousands of villagers in the rural areas. However, in Srinagar city the situation is not that bad. Yes, if there are no rains for the next month or so, there could be a crisis," said a PHE officer here.
The rains were expected in Kashmir over a month ago.
Shabir Ahmad, 43, who lives in the Haripora village of Ganderbal district, 27 km from here, said: "The spring in our village is a perennial one. Since my childhood this spring has been the only source of water for us. These days the water level in the spring has dangerously fallen."
The Jhelum river, which flows through the heart of Srinagar city, has the lowest ever discharge these days.
"The river has become shallow to such an extent that children are playing cricket at the river beds in many places. If Allah doesn't take mercy, there is going to be real trouble," said Zubair Ahmad, 39, a government employee here.
With both drinking water and electricity shortages hitting them hard, Kashmiris are looking for solace in prayers. Most of imams have been offering special prayers to invoke Allah's blessings.
"There are special prayers which the Muslims must offer to invoke Allah's mercy for rains. Such prayers have always produced results in the past and they will definitely be answered now if offered with faith and submission," said Ghulam Muhammad, 54, the imam of a mosque.
As the water level in all the major and minor rivers here continues to fall, electricity that comes from the water-driven turbines of power projects in Kashmir has become erratic.
And officials fear the worst is still to come. "The situation has never been as bad during the last 40 years. The discharge levels in our rivers have fallen to nearly 600 cusecs (cubic feet per second) as against the 7,000 cusecs we usually have during summer," said Khwaja Nisar Hussain, chief engineer electric maintenance here.
"The generation from our three power projects -- the Lower Jhelum, Upper Sindh Stage First and Upper Sindh Stage Second -- is just 10 percent of our daily requirement.
"We supplied 718 MW on Monday, whereas our unrestricted requirement is 1,050 MW daily. We are entitled to draw approximately 500 MW from the country's Northern Power Grid daily, but have been over-drawing regularly because of the poor local generation and the increased demand.
"In order to manage the situation, we have to resort to forced curtailments, but even then we cannot avoid over-drawing of electric power from the Northern Grid."
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