In a decade, southern Kashmir’s Kulgam district, which is known as the Valley’s rice bowl, has lost 40 percent of its agricultural land.
The Jammu and Kashmir Government continues to remain a silent witness to the rampant conversion of agricultural land in Kashmir valley, while the paddy land shrinks at a staggering rate.
Thousands of kanals of Abi Awal (irrigated) land have been converted into commercial plots in Kashmir, while the same has been done in contempt of relevant court orders.
No land will be left for rice cultivation, experts warn
Experts warn that if the land conversion continues at its current rate, there would be no land left for rice production in the not-too-distant future.
Farmers, on the other hand, are also migrating to the Horticulture industry, they stated, in addition to the tendency of building shopping complexes on agricultural property.
The trend is picking up among the farmer community to turn to the Horticulture sector and growing apple trees on irrigated land that was previously used for agriculture.
Agricultural land shrinking consistently over the years
As per experts, this is happening because the UT’s Agriculture Department has failed to offer them varieties, from which they can make a living.
Kashmiri women work in their fields in south Kashmir’s Anantnag district
Interestingly, the area under rice cultivation in Kashmir has decreased from 1,48,000 hectares in 2015 to 1,40,000 hectares in 2018. Similarly, maize cultivation decreased from 100,000 to 76,000 hectares over this time period. As a result, pulse farming has decreased from 14,600 hectares to 12,767 hectares.
Situation more alarming in “Kashmir’s Rice Bowl”
The agricultural area of Kulgam, which is renowned as Kashmir’s rice bowl, is rapidly declining, and experts predict that there will soon be very little land left for agricultural activities.
Officials from the Chief Agriculture Officer in Kulgam state that the trend of converting agricultural land is highly concerning. They said that despite the efforts of the concerned department, the district has lost about 40 per cent of its agricultural land in the previous decade.
Observers believe that the increasing number of brick kilns, the construction of large complexes, residential homes, and the transition to the horticulture industry are the major reasons why agricultural land is diminishing.
Farmers are counselled on a daily basis, the Agriculture Department officials claim, and alternative plans are presented to them. However, it seems that the time is not far when Kashmir would be completely reliant on other states for rice, given the pace of land conversion in Kashmir for commercial reasons.