Kashmir’s farmland plowed under in wave of urbanization
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.