Pampore: The famed saffron fields in Pampore are shrinking at an alarming pace thanks to the official apathy and local population’s lack of passion towards the dwindling cash crop that was once the basic reason for the economic prosperity of the southern town, located 12 kilometers from capital Srinagar.
The encroachment on the notified area continues despite existence of laws meant to preserve the unique land. Locals say that despite existing laws like Saffron Act 2007, the state government has failed to stop the unabated conversion of saffron land into commercial and residential establishments.
Unscrupulous elements are busy in turning the saffron land at places like Saffron Colony, Kadlabal, Konibal and Chandhara into residential colonies.
Prior to 2007 when Government was yet to introduce its ambitious Saffron Mission, 5100 hectares of land were under saffron cultivation. This expanse of land has now reduced to 3715 hectares owing to unregulated urbanisation and Government’s inability to save the Saffron land.
As the land cover decreased the saffron production showed a drastic decline. Last year, as per farmers, there was 60 percent drop in production. Experts explained that the unplanned and unregulated construction was ruining the crop and if the government was unable to put a check to the conversion of saffron field, they might lose the crop.
“You would not find this crop elsewhere in India. It grows at selected places as it requires specific climatic conditions. It’s not only about land but the micro-environmental conditions which helps it grow. It’s a special crop and needs special policies,” said an Agricultural Officer.
Locals blamed the government for turning the saffron fields into residential colonies and asked how they can stop the construction when they themselves are constructing buildings on the saffron land. “The newly allotted Degree College, Spice Park and some others buildings had been constructed on the Saffron land”, they said.
The locals alleged that the ban on the construction is only for minting money. “I have never seen demolition of any house or commercial establishment which was built on Saffron land. The officials receive money and let this happen. Look at Saffron colony, there are houses everywhere,” said Gulzar Ahmad, a local resident.
Deputy Commissioner Pulwama, Ghulam Mohammad Dar, said unscrupulous people were cashing in on the ongoing situation by performing all illegal works and illegal construction on Saffron fields.
“We will not allow it. We will enforce the law. Construction on saffron fields is hazardous for the crop. We will take strict action against the violators,” he said.
Dar said the illegally constructed buildings on saffron land would be demolished.