Srinagar: The agricultural and wetlands of Kashmir are under serious threat as they are being fast eaten up by the rapid urbanisation and the faulty land-use.
The unchecked construction of residential colonies, factories, shopping complexes, brick kilns etc has squeezed the agricultural land in the valley.
It has also thrown up the challenge as to how the Kashmir will meet the challenge of the food security crisis in the future?
But, nobody seems to be concerned as of now.
According to the reports released by the agricultural department, Kashmir is losing 228 kanals of agricultural land in a single day which comes under construction directly or indirectly.
State records reveal that the paddy cultivation in Kashmir region had shrunk from 1,63,000 hectares in 1996 to 1,41,000 hectares in 2012 — a loss of 22,000 hectares over 16 years, which has significant impact on the supply of food grains and their price stability.
This has created a sort of food insecurity in the the state as it is now more dependent on the outside states for the supply of food grains.
“This figures are upto 2012. But now we are pretty sure that the agriculture land had shrunk further due to booming constructions,” an employee of the agriculture department said.
According to a study titled ‘Urban Sprawl of Srinagar City’ and its Impact on Wetlands-A Spatio-temporal Analysis conducted by Humayun Rashid and Gowhar Naseem of the state government’s department of environment, ecology and remote sensing, Srinagar has lost 50 percent of its wetlands since 1911
The 2014 floods in Kashmir were also attributed by the experts to the haphazard development of housing and infrastructure projects carried out mostly in the floodplains of Srinagar and other cities in the south Kashmir.
The picture is grim in Srinagar district too as it has been growing rapidly in the recent years.
The city has grown 12 times in terms of population and 23 times in terms of area between 1901 and 2011, according to a study carried out by researchers of Kashmir University’s department of geography.
A state survey blamed these factors for affecting the region’s lakes and wetlands as well, reducing them in size or completely killing them.
Srinagar’s wetlands were spread over 13,425.90 hectares in 1911. By 2004, this area had shrunk to 6,407.14 hectares. This means a loss of 7,018 hectares in 95 years, state survey revealed.
Professor, Shakeel Ramshoo, who heads Earth Sciences department at Kashmir University, said the abrupt change in the city has led to the conversion of the agriculture land into a non-agricultural land.
“Such has been the change since 1953 that horticulture has increased by 27 times, and agriculture has been converted into housing areas despite a law in force that it cannot be converted,” Ramshoo said.
Counting other factors, he said the economic factor related to the conversion of agricutural land into a horticulture one also played its role in its dwindinling.
“A farmer gets five to six times more money for converting the land. So it becomes hard for government to stop it,” Ramshoo said.
In Srinagar, he said that people had nowhere to go when the city got expanded as north part of the city had Zabarwan mountains which acted as natural barriers.
“The major portion of land in south of Srinagar was all agriculture. But due to the horizontal expansion by city planners, the land that was flood plain and used for agriculture got affected. It also increased the vulnerability of floods,” Ramshoo said.
Ramshoo explained shrinking of the agricultural land had affected the bio-diversity of the state and thus had advesrely impacted the flora and fauna of the state.
He cited an example of “extinction” of frogs in the city to demonstrate the affect of conversion of agricultural land into concrete one.
“Their main habitat was agricultural land and since agricultural land is almost gone, so have the frogs,” Ramshoo said.
The experts have unanimously demanded that conversion of agriucltural land to residential colonies should be stopped to ensure the food security.
“If we are unable to do it, the future generations will curse us forever,” an expert said.