The Indian army chief said on Sunday that ceasefire violations and use of heavy weapons by Pakistani troops to shell Indian-held Kashmir is triggering avalanches there, reported PTI.

Army Chief General Bipin Rawat also blamed global warming and ecological changes. “Ceasefire violations and use of heavy weapons by Pakistani troops are leading to loosening of soil, thereby creating danger of a landslide. Global warming is also leading to cracks in glaciers,” he told mediamen in New Delhi.

He added that efforts are underway with a snow and avalanche lab to map and identify avalanche-prone areas and said the army was withdrawing troops from such areas but some of them were vulnerable to insurgency.

As many as 21 persons, including 15 army men, have been killed since last week due to avalanches and snowfall in Kashmir valley. Last year, on February 3, ten soldiers of 19 Madras Regiment were buried alive in a deadly avalanche in the Siachen Glacier.

Gen Rawat added that parts of Jammu and Kashmir have been witnessing heavy snowfall over the past 72 hours, and is likely to witness similar conditions for the next two-three days. Kashmir has witnessed record snowfall this year. "Due to global warming, glaciers are witnessing cracks. There are avalanches in areas which had not reported such cases earlier. Avalanches have occurred in Dawar areas, Machil sectors. We have erected some posts for counter-infiltration. Some posts are very near to enemy posts,” Gen Rawat added. "There have been a lot of ceasefire violations and heavy weapons too are being used. Many times it affects the soil and loosens it up. When there is a heavy snowfall on such loose soil and if there is a slope, it triggers danger of an avalanche," Rawat said.

General Rawat also pointed out that the Army has been taking the help of a Chandigarh based Snow and Avalanche Study Establishment, a laboratory under the Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO), to map avalanche-prone areas.

Rawat also appealed to families of the jawans who were victims of the avalanche to bear with them as "weather is playing a spoilsport in bringing back the bodies of their dear ones."