Vast Swaths Of Fertile Land Filled Up To Construct Houses, Buildings
Srinagar: Although the government has put a blanket ban on conversion of agricultural land for other purposes, thousands of acres of such land in Kashmir have turned into residential areas.
According to officials, vast swaths of fertile land have been filled up to construct houses, malls, shopping complexes, hospitals and educational institutions.
Director, Department of Agriculture, Mohammad Iqbal Chaudhary said more than 15,000 hectares of land under paddy cultivation has been lost over the past few years owing to constructions and crop diversification.
“According to the Census, the custody of land is with the Department of Revenue. The exact figure is taken care of by the Revenue Department. But according to our statistics, the land under cultivation has decreased because of constructions on agriculture land and crop diversification. At present, we have 1.30 lakh hectares under paddy cultivation, Earlier it was 1.46 lakh hectares,” Chaudhary said.
Farmers are worried that the land under agriculture is decreasing, even though farming has become easier with new methods and the crop yield has increased as well.
“Thirty years ago, farming was done manually which was hard labour but now mechanical equipment has made our work easier. The crop yield is better but the land under cultivation has decreased tremendously,” Gulzar Ahmad Parray, a farmer, said.
Parray said his family had a land holding of two hectares but it has now been reduced to just 0.25 hectares .
“Agricultural land is now being used for construction of houses as the population is increasing day by day. Kashmir’s local and specific variety of rice production is also decreasing as land is getting occupied building structures,” Parray added.
Some of the farmers said road construction through agricultural lands has also led to shrinking of the cultivable land.
“Paddy land has gone under housing and commercial constructions. Land has shrunk due to the road construction, and other construction of massive structures,” Ghulam Mohammad, a farmer, said.
Abdul Hamid Sheikh, another farmer, said Sozeth area in the outskirts of Srinagar had large tracts of land under paddy cultivation, which has now been reduced to almost 25 per cent.
“This area was used for production of rice but now (agricultural) land has been shrunk to 200 kanals (10 hectares) which used to be 800 kanals (40 hectares). Housing society has also been constructed nearby,” Sheikh said.
He said in the coming years, the remaining agricultural land will also get covered by houses and other buildings.
“Agricultural fields will vanish altogether.” Chaudhary said and added that he will alert the concerned authorities about the land conversion but urged people to do their bit as well.
“We are working with the district and divisional administrations of Kashmir to convey this message that the cultivation land should only be used for farming activities. We collectively have to play our role in creating awareness about the optimum utilisation of agricultural land for farming activities only, and not for the construction purposes,” he added.