According to last agriculture census of 2010-2011 the average agricultural land holding in India was 1.15 hectares. This means an average farmer owns 22 kanals of land in India. Land holding was much lower in case of Jammu & Kashmir ie 0.62 hectares which means 11 to 12 kanals. The figure is much lower in case of Kashmir valley 0.45 hectares. This means on an average a Kashmiri farmer owned 8 to 9 kanals of agricultural land as per 2010-2011 census . Agricultural and Land Revenue experts from J&K say that agriculture census 2010-11 was much exaggerated as the actual landholding was only 5 to 6 kanals and as on date this is much lower (4 kanals maximum). In-fact I have written about this in past in local and national dailies. Today I am again raising the issue of shrinking land area of Kashmir. The dearth of land is not only affecting our daily lives but this is becoming a big challenge for Municipal bodies as they are not able to even find a suitable space for disposal of municipal waste. Most of the municipal bodies in J&K don’t have a designated landfill site and with the result the garbage lifted from different towns is either collected on roadsides or dumped illegally on state land most of which is located near the banks of water-bodies (canals, streams, rivers and lakes). Once the water level increases in rains the garbage gets washed away posing serious health hazards because source of our water supply schemes are these rivers and streams.
Pulwama firing incident
Recently a young man was injured in a firing incident during a protest at Wahibugh village of Pulwama. The local residents were protesting against the dumping of Municipal Solid Waste (MSW) at Pohnad area of village which is a Kah Charai land located near Romshu nallah. The said land has been reportedly acquired by Municipal Committee Pulwama for being used as garbage dumping ground. From last several years Municipal Committee Pulwama is trying to find a piece of land for dumping its municipal solid waste , but due to scarcity of land in the area, the municipality had finally chosen to use land around Wahibugh which is 6 kms outside town, but locals are resisting this move. I am sure Pulwama municipal committee won’t get land anywhere in the district for creating a landfill site. The reason is dearth of land and population growth.
Illegal dumping sites
There are more than 50 illegal dumping sites created by various municipal councils and committees across J&K. Not even 20 % municipal institutions have a proper garbage dumping ground. If I talk about scientific landfill site to be designed as per Municipal Solid Waste Rules 2016 then we have not even a one such site in entire state of Jammu & Kashmir. With the result municipal bodies dump its solid waste unscientifically. The Municipal Committee Magam dumps its waste on the banks of Ferozpur nallah, Municipal Committee Kulgam uses nallah Vishaw for garbage dumping and in Bandipora the municipal solid waste is dumped at Zalwan area located near Wullar lake. Chadoora , Ganderbal, Charar Sharief, Udhampur, Ramban, Tangmarg and many other municipal committees don’t have any dumping site at all.
We cannot blame Municipal institutions for illegal dumping of solid waste. They don’t do it deliberately. This is an issue which needs to be deliberated upon seriously by our IAS officers in civil secretariat. There will be more protests and agitations by people in future as valley is getting chocked in trash. On daily basis valley generates more than 700 metric tons of waste , where shall this go ? Srinagar’s landfill site at Achan is 95 % filled and new site is yet to be identified. If SMC acquires some land in nearby Pampore, Ganderbal or Budgam, there will again be protests and firings.
Here is the solution ?
1. Government must completely ban plastic bags, disposable goods and packaging items.
2. Religious leaders must come forward and speak out against ill effects of plastic. The Plastic ban doesn’t mean only banning polythene bags, but even food items , chips packets and thermocol packing should be banned in J&K.
3. In-house composting of organic waste should be enforced on house-holds with ½ kanal land or more in cities and towns. This will reduce the load on garbage dump sites
4. Rural Sanitation Department must be held accountable for failing to undertake waste management work in Rural areas as mandated under Swach Bharat Mission Grameen. NREGA funds be utilized for waste management in rural areas.
5. Sale of food items packed in plastic be immediately banned in Tourist places and people be heavily fined for littering.