Kashmir’s farm­land plowed un­der in wave of ur­ban­iza­tion

Iran Daily - - Cultural Heritage & Environment -

In cen­tral Kashmir’s Gan­der­bal dis­trict, 40-year-old Javaid Ah­mad Hurra re­mem­bers vividly how his small ham­let used to be lush and green when he was a child. It is now sub­tly turn­ing into a con­crete jun­gle, with ce­ment struc­tures dom­i­nat­ing the scenery.

Walk­ing past new houses un­der con­struc­tion, Ah­mad Hurra said the en­tire place was once filled with vast paddy fields. “Now, res­i­den­tial colonies have been built and no one is sow­ing crops any­more,” he told IPS. Ac­cord­ing to the state pol­icy doc­u­ment on land use, due to rapid ur­ban­iza­tion and un­planned land use, the land­locked Kashmir Val­ley is los­ing a ma­jor­ity of its cul­tivable lands.

The De­cem­ber 2016 re­port said that ev­ery year, the Kashmir Val­ley is los­ing an av­er­age of 1,375 hectares of agri­cul­tural land due to rapid con­struc­tion of com­mer­cial in­fras­truc­ture, brick kilns, res­i­den­tial colonies and shop­ping com­plexes.

Ac­cord­ing to the de­part­ment of agri­cul­ture in Kashmir, within the past 16 years, the re­gion has lost 22,000 hectares of agri­cul­ture land. The sur­vey con­ducted by the de­part­ment reveals that farm­land dwin­dled from 163,000 hectares in 1996 to 141,000 hectares in 2012.

Kashmir is a hilly state and its net area (in the In­dian part) is 101,387 sq.kms. Its pop­u­la­tion per the 2011 cen­sus is 12.5 mil­lion. The for­est cover of the state is 20 per­cent of its to­tal ge­o­graph­i­cal area and the den­sity is 124 peo­ple per sq.km.

Agri­cul­ture plays a prom­i­nent role in the econ­omy of this Hi­malayan re­gion, with around 70 per­cent of its to­tal pop­u­la­tion liv­ing in ru­ral ar­eas, and who are di­rectly or in­di­rectly de­pen­dent on agri­cul­ture for their liveli­hoods.

Ac­cord­ing to Mir Yasir Ah­mad, a re­searcher at the Uni­ver­sity of Kashmir, the shrink­ing of agri­cul­tural land can be at­trib­uted to rapid ur­ban­iza­tion and the un­planned emer­gence of res­i­den­tial colonies in paddy fields.

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