Pampore: It has been eleven years since the touted National Saffron Mission (NSM) was launched here in Kashmir, but there has been no fresh assessment of the land under saffron cultivation in the valley, leaving even the officials in the agriculture department wondering.
The last assessment of the land under saffron cultivation was carried out in 2010, as the NSM was being rolled out in Kashmir. Even then the officials were surprised to find that the land under saffron cultivation had shrunk considerably.
“Before 2010, our records showed that the land under saffron cultivation was about 5100 hectares, but when the survey was carried out in 2010, the land cover actually came out to be just 3715 hectares,” an official in the agriculture department told Kashmir Reader.
There was a loss of around 2200 hectares, and it was obvious that the land had been encroached upon or used for other purposes like building residential or commercial complexes, the official said.
“Ironically, there was no further prying carried out into the fact that the land cover was shrinking, and fast,” the official said.
The world’s costliest spice, saffron, is grown mainly in the karewas of Pampore town and its outskirts here in Pulwama district of south Kashmir. Some land even falls within the jurisdiction of Srinagar district.
Hundreds of kanals of this land have been encroached upon in the jurisdiction of Pampore tehsil as well as in Srinagar. While some land is being used to extract soil for land filling, some of it has witnessed residential or commercial complexes being constructed over it.
A revenue official in Pampore told Kashmir Reader that 548 kanals of saffron land were encroached upon and converted to residential or commercial use in the tehsil. “Regular interventions have yielded retrieval of only 40 kanals of land from encroachers. 500 kanals still remain to be retrieved,” the official said.
The first step, though, will be a detailed survey of the land-cover, by the revenue department. “Only after a proper assessment is carried out, we will be able to know how much land has been encroached upon and what needs to be done in the future,” the official at the agriculture department said.
He rued that it was a regular process and the revenue department should have been carrying out the assessment every year. “However, for reasons better known to them, they are not sharing any details, even if they are carrying out a survey,” the official told Kashmir Reader, on condition of anonymity.
Kashmir Reader talked to Revenue Commissioner, Vijay Kumar Bidhuri, who said that he will have to talk to his office for details on the issue. “I don’t have any idea of the issue right now. I will have to talk to my office first,” Bidhuri said, adding that he would get back when he has the details.