Agri land in Kashmir shrinking fast
Srinagar: In a worrying trend over 78,000 hectares of agricultural land has been converted for non-farm activities in Kashmir division in the last six years amid government's failure to walk the talk on unabated conversion of farmlands.
With housing colonies, commercial complexes cropping up on agricultural land, experts believe that in Kashmir in near future there will be hardly any land left for agriculture purposes.
As per the official figures, conversion of an estimated 78 thousand hectares (which is equivalent to 15.4 lakh kanals) of farm land for non-agricultural purposes in Kashmir has taken place from 2015.
The official data also points to the fact that agricultural land in Kashmir is shrinking. According to the data, Kashmir had 4, 67,700-hectares of agricultural land in 2015 which has shrunk to 3, 89,000 hectares in 2019. Kashmir has lost 78,700 hectares of agricultural land to non-agricultural purposes since 2015.
Data shows that the land under paddy cultivation in Kashmir region shrank from 1,48,000 hectares in 2015 to 1,40,000 in 2018.
Similarly, maize cultivation shrank from 100,000 hectares to 76,000 hectares over these years.
Accordingly, cultivation of pulses has declined from 14,600 hectares to 12,767 hectares. Oilseed cultivation also plummeted from 86,000 hectares to 81,000.
According to the census report by the Union Agriculture Ministry, the average size of holding has shrunk from 0.62 hectares (ha) per person to 0.59 ha, from 2011 to 2016.
Speaking to Greater Kashmir, Director Agriculture Kashmir, Chowdhary Muhammad Iqbal said: “Exact figure of conversion of agriculture land for nonfarm activities can be given by revenue department. But as Director Agriculture department, I will admit that conversion of farm lands is happening across Kashmir which is a cause of concern not only for the government but for locals as well. We can make houses at any place, even in mountains, but agricultural land is limited.”
Earlier, Economic Survey report had also highlighted that unabated conversion of agricultural land in Jammu and Kashmir for non-agriculture purposes was making 60% of the State population poorer by the day.
"This sector ironically supports more than 60% of employment and the effects can be easily seen in the disparity ratio between average incomes of agriculturists and non-agriculturists, which has been increasing since long," the report reads.
"This means that a major population (60% people) of J&K is becoming poorer. Also, keeping in consideration the scope of expansion in manufacturing sector and service sector (primarily with tourism industry under its kitty) the major bottleneck that can hold us back is the Agriculture sector," the report adds.
From 2004-05 to 2011-12, as per official data the share of agriculture in GDP has fallen approximately one third from 28% to 16%, whereas the share of industry has remained almost constant. The share of services has improved from 43.71% to 57%.
Experts cautioned that conversion of agricultural land was taking place in both rural and urban Kashmir, raising alarm bells.
In 2011, the Government had set up a committee under the chairmanship of then Horticulture Minister to frame a bill that would address specifically the issue of use of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes.
But the proposed legislation wasn't finalised allegedly owing to political pressure.
In April 2012, the J&K High Court had passed directions against misuse of agricultural land, on a Public Interest Litigation (PIL)filed by a non-governmental organization.