By Rao Farman Ali
Tragically, water flow to all the rivers in Jammu and Kashmir is decreasing. The perpetual snow line in Jammu and Kashmir reached 16,000 feet from 13,000 feet in the last several decades, which is happening at an alarming rate. Although a combination of factors are responsible like, global warming, shrinking forest cover and increasing human interference, fast melting of glacial ice, if, however, the water flow keeps receding at this rate, people won’t get water for even drinking.
However, as per Lawrence, the settlement commissioner of Jammu and Kashmir in the British period of the last decade of the nineteenth century, agriculture land of the country at that time which was under the agricultural activities stood at 1,195,555 acres. Further, according to the records of 1992, the total area of Jammu and Kashmir under all sectors of agriculture is 24.15 lac hectares, out of which, 138,6867 hectares are rural and 10.28 lac hectares are urban, although, only 3.3 percent of total geographical area of the State is under Agricultural cultivation.
It is to be noted that the statistics are available for only 8.26 lac hectares . The rest of the area is under mountains and forests. Still, in Jammu and Kashmir, directly or indirectly more than 70 percent of the population depends on agriculture but the proportion of labour force engaged in agriculture has declined from 85 percent in 1961, to 28 percent by 2016. Jammu and Kashmir imports about 40 percent of food grains and 20 percent of vegetables to meet its requirements. In,2000, 38 percent of land area was agricultural land but only 11 percent was used for crops.
In 2012, according to the official data of the department of agriculture, government of Jammu and Kashmir, the total area under paddy cultivation in Kashmir division was 1,58,000 hectares which has shrunk to all-time low of 1,42,000 hectares in 2017. In four to five years, agro-holdings are lost double the agriculture land lost in three decades,” the data reveals, and the total area under paddy cultivation has reduced by 3,40,000 kanals.
While the official figures present this gloomy picture, experts predict that by the end of this century, Kashmir will face a severe food-deficit and its dependence on imports will increase by over 34 percent to current rate.
In Jammu and Kashmir, 1981, the total area under paddy cultivation in valley was at record 166,000 hectares and the same decreased to 158,000 hectares in 2012 shrinking the fertile land by 8000 hectares in three decades. Going by the figures, it doesn’t look much of a decrease but what came after 2012 has disrupted all calculations. During the last three years, the valley has lost 16650 hectares of paddy land reducing the current area under rice cultivation to 141,350 hectares. Official figures reveal that the arable land in Jammu and Kashmir has shrunk from 0.14 hectares per-person in 1981 to 0.08 hectares per-person in 2001 and further to 0.06 hectares per-person in 2012.
With the current rate (5550 hectares per year), all is set to lose all of its paddy land in next 25 years and by 2030 Jammu and Kashmir, especially valleys of Kashmir, Chenab, Pirpanchal, Kargil and Leh will be having acute shortage of food grains. Essentially , at that time , requirement shall be 1.82 million tons of food grains and in 2040, the valley will be bereft of any agricultural land to cultivate rice and one could possibly see concrete jungle trespassed by orchards. Yes, the major conversion of paddy land has been due to economic reasons and if the trend continues—coupled with the climatic change—we will be 83 percent dependent on imports for meeting our food requirements by the end of this century.
Jammu and Kashmir under the Land Acquisition Act 1894, Jammu Kashmir Land Revenue Act 1996, actually came into force in 1939, Jammu and Kashmir Agrarian Reforms Act 1976, Jammu and Kashmir Prohibition on Conversion of Land and Alienation of Orchards Act 1975 are some of the laws already in place to check blatant conversion of agricultural land for non-agriculture purposes. However, despite strong legislations, illegal conversion of agricultural land is going on unabated, mainly due to non-existence of a comprehensive housing policy.
Although, in 2011, under the chairmanship of horticulture ministry , a committee was set up by the government for the preservation of the agricultural land but unfortunately that the committee failed to reach the conclusion and due to political incongruity the proposed legislation was stopped.
In 2012, the High Court of Jammu and Kashmir passed directions to all the deputy commissioners with an aim to ensure the implementation of the provisions of agricultural Act and land revenue Act to stop the conversion of agricultural land on their respective jurisdictions of the state monitored by commissioners but at the end of the day, nothing was seen on ground.
Ironically, still, the Jammu and Kashmir government continues to make tall claims to protect the agriculture and forest land from further shrinking, the State has already lost 875.665 hectares of forest and agricultural rich land.
(To be Continued…)