by Peerzada Arshad Hamid
SRINAGAR, Indian-controlled Kashmir, Jan. 9 (Xinhua) -- A steep drop in mercury accelerating icy winds Tuesday morning resulted in freezing large parts of Dal Lake in Indian-controlled Kashmir, officials said.
Locals said the morning proved to be tough for boatmen to move the shikaras (small boats) in the lake in Srinagar city, the summer capital of Indian-controlled Kashmir.
"The surface of the lake had frozen to a solid mass. Though the ice layer was not thick still it was very difficult to row the shikara. We had to break the ice to make the shikaras move," said Bashir Ahmad Dar, a boatman.
According to Dar, over the past week edges of lake used to froze but Tuesday the surface had frozen to a solid mass.
Visiting tourists were filming the frozen waters of the lake on their mobile phones and breaking the ice formations with much fun.
"This is for the first time I am seeing surface any lake frozen," said Asima Bhatia, a tourist from Indian city of Gujarat. "It is a wonderful sight."
Dal Lake is famous for its placid waters and rows of houseboats placed on it.
Meteorological department officials witnessed its coldest night of the season Monday with the mercury plunging to 6.1 degree Celsius below freezing point.
At present the region is in grip of the harshest 40-day period of winter, locally called Chilla Kalan. During this period from Dec. 21 to Jan. 31, the region mostly the valley remains under extreme cold due to below-freezing night temperatures.
"The residents usually have a tough time during this 40-day period. Drinking water pipes carrying portable water usually freeze in this period. Electricity supply remains erratic as power development department resorts to curtailment in the electricity schedule," said Mateen Sayeed, a Srinagar resident. "We usually have to experience darkness for long hours in wake of the power curtailment."
Owing to intense cold, the local government has already shifted the capital to Jammu city, which is considerably warmer than Srinagar. It has also closed schools and colleges for winter vacation.
The offices of chief minister, his colleagues and top bureaucrats have moved to Jammu.
Chances of snowfall increase and become frequent during Chillai-Kalan in colder parts of the region.
During the daytime, the weather remains foggy or cloudy.
Region Power Development department officials said decline of water in water bodies and rivers affects electricity generation, because of which they have to curtail power supply.
There have been years in the past when the entire Dal Lake in Srinagar city froze to a solid mass.
Officials said other water bodies and river edges in the cold areas of region too have frozen in wake of the intense cold across the region.
The residents are looking forward to snowfall and rains.
"We are anticipating snowfall or rains. This will bring some respite from the intense prevalent cold. Besides, snowfall is vital for our economy. The snowfall around this time will ensure irrigation to our agriculture and horticulture during summer months, when it is required most," Gulzar Ahmad, a fruit grower, said.
The Ladakh region is also reeling under severe cold. The night temperatures in Leh and Kargil were recorded at minus 15.2 degrees Celsius and minus 11.0 degrees Celsius respectively.
Apart from Indian-controlled Kashmir, the north Indian states including Punjab, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, New Delhi and eastern state of Bihar and Jharkhand are also experiencing cold wave.