Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Diminishing Agricultural (Fertile) Land

Kashmir may go ‘landless’ as unplanned (and mostly illegal) urbanization witnesses surge

Agriculture Land Turns Into Residential

Aliya Bashir (Kashmir Monitor)

Srinagar: With government failing to stop the construction on agricultural land, Kashmir’s land is fast shrinking due to the unabated construction boom. The priceless land of saffron and paddy is alarmingly squeezing as construction of residential houses has replaced farming with hi-tech living.

In absence of any law that prevents the use of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes, the increasing urbanization is causing shrinkage of agricultural land in the valley. The government has even failed to bring the bill in the state legislature to put a ban on construction on agricultural land.

According to experts at Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agricultural Sciences and Technology- (SKUAST) Srinagar, the issue is serious as rapid urbanization, horizontal construction, farmers growing more cash crops, increasing population are some of the reasons that has resulted in a fast decline of agricultural land in the valley.

“Though there are laws which incorporate banning of the agricultural land for the non-agricultural purposes, but all such laws remain confined to papers only. The population is increasing but the land remains same so more and more agricultural land is getting shrunk,” said Dr Shafiq Wani, Director Research, SKUAST.

The director said that in the shield of developmental purposes, the ‘gobbling’ of agricultural land should be stopped and needs to be protected for other uses. “The issue should be immediately referred to a select committee of legislators and government should take it as a priority to ban the conversion of the land which is exclusively meant for agricultural purposes,” he said. “Farmers find it also difficult to stick to only water-intensive crops like paddy and they readily are turning over to cash crops like apple, almond and walnuts. More than 30-35 per cent of our agricultural requirements are fulfilled from outside and we are far behind to become self-sufficient,” Wani added.

The construction boom is consuming thousands of hectares of agricultural land due to the lack of land use policy and the construction is rampant as the villagers continue to sell land to buyers from Srinagar and other areas to set up houses and business areas.

The fast conversion can be seen on Srinagar-Leh highway at Barusa, Lar-Watlar, Manigam, Haripora, Wussan, Preng, Kijpora, Kangan, Margund, Cherwan, Thune, Mamar, Ganiwan and Gund villages and same is the case at Beehama, Dudarhama, Nunar, Pandach, Alestang, Nagbal, Wayil, Safapora, Manasbal, Shalbugh, Saloora, Fatehpora, Gaadur and Chhendun and other villages.

The illegal mushrooming of construction on agricultural lands has left many farmers worried as their sole means of livelihood is farming but others who have alternatives means of living are least bothered. “The construction on the paddy land is very wrong, as it can affect our coming generations. Presently, more and more farmlands are getting converted into residential and commercial purpose and the time is not far when the entire valley has to go through a shocking food crisis,” said an official in the Town and Planning Department, on the condition of anonymity.

The official said the disturbing trend of unplanned growth and the lack of regulation measures is shrinking the agricultural land and as developmental activities gather pace, there is a phenomenal increase in the cost of land in the valley.

According to official figures, 151,352 hectares of cultivable land that used to be under cultivation in the state, a few decades ago, has now shrunk to 46,943 hectares and has been taken over for urbanization in the valley.

Zaffran Colony at Sempora, adjacent to Pampore, once known for saffron cultivation has been fast turning into a residential colony as big houses are being made on the saffron land on a great speed.

“The fertile agricultural land which is best made for the cultivation of Zaffran is getting converted into residential colonies as people from Sonwar, Dalgate, Habba Kadal and other highly dense populated areas are fast occupying the space,” said Bashir Ahmed Wani, a local resident of Zaffran Colony, He added that, “We fear that a time will come when we will lose all our precious saffron land to human interference as all the laws to implement ban remain confined only on paper.”

The shrinking of agricultural land is also taking a heavy toll on the livelihood of many people as animals continue to suffer from insufficient fodder with the degradation and shrinking of pastures in Kashmir.

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