Growing urbanization, commercialization and mechanization has left Kashmir valley vulnerable to hazardous repercussions of unimaginable magnitude. Some sultry scars have already uglified us very badly, and some are about to assail us, if not precluded in time. Drastic damage to the aesthetics of picturesque sites and resorts of the valley has blemished our tourism potential. Soaring pollution levels have lamentably stirred acute climatic chaos, and subjected us to awe-full weather phenomena like heat waves, cloudbursts, droughts and floods. Recession of our precious glacial wealth has jeopardized the existence of our future generations on the planet. And the most appalling calamity in the making is the conversion of our paddy land into concrete colonies and commercial hubs. The demon of shrinking agricultural land is devouring us slowly, and ironically, but the veneer of its short term economic prosperity has turned us oblivious to the nasty truths behind this conundrum.
Valleyites were self-reliant and self-sufficient a few decades earlier. Local needs were met easily with local production. Now, we have begun to spread our Kashkol (Beggar’s Bowl) before our neighbouring states for different purposes. Mutton, chicken and rice is brought here from neighbouring Rajasthan, Punjab and other states. Our ancestors had everything they needed. Particularly the production of rice was enough to meet their own needs. Rice is our staple food, and our forefathers weren't dependent on Punjab for its two meals, rather would produce surplus to feed government depots. Although our yield per hectare was comparatively low, but we had plenty of land under the cultivation of paddy crop. Burgeoning population, excessive avarice to become rich, and unplanned urbanization has gulped a substantial portion of the agricultural land during the last one decade, and some recent stats are spine-chilling and too ghastly to believe.
According to a report, we have lost 33, 309 hectares of paddy land to urbanization and concretization since 2012. The report reads that we had 1,62,309 hectares of land dedicated to paddy cultivation in the year 2012, which has been distressingly waned to 1,29,000 hectares. The trend is appallingly alarming, because we can't afford to lose our rice bowl to our greedy vibes of erecting tall buildings and commercial centers. Going by this trend, we may end up as paupers who have concrete houses to live in, but nothing to satiate their hunger with. Commercialization of agricultural land has been a mere mirage for us. The short term profitability has made us incognizant and unmindful of a drought which can annihilate us all. We have become oblivious to the repercussions of the poisoned chalice. The dreaded race of materialism is sure to trample us under its cruel clutches. It is nothing more than a nine days wonder.
Food security is a burning issue of contemporary times. The crisis are looming large on the entire global populace, and every soulful person is worried about the worsening problem. Third world nations are already going through starvation and acute food scarcity. People are concerned about the sufficient food grains available to every soul on the planet, because growing population has confronted us on different fronts. UN secretary general Antonio Gutteres urged all the world leaders to ensure sufficient food for everyone. In a video message at the launch of the state Food Security and Nutrition in the world 2023 report, he said, " In a world of plenty, no one should go hungry. And no one should suffer the cruelty of malnutrition." Our agricultural productivity has seen a surge, but we are hell-bent to axe our own feet by diminishing more and more agricultural land. The demon of conversion of paddy land into residential houses, industrial units and roads is posing terrible threat to our existence on the earth. Our food producing lands are declining rapidly. There may be an acute crisis of food shortage and depravity in future, if a robust and sustainable food security strategy is not adopted by governments and commoners.
Legal laws are there to prevent the conversion of agricultural land into residential and commercial colonies, but it is not enough. We need to bring new and stringent laws, and amend the old ones to check the menace. Strong balances and checks can prevent the peril. Construction of a building in agricultural land should be subjected to proper permission from competent authorities. Even none should be allowed to plant apple trees in paddy fields, because we have already lost substantial portion of paddy land to horticultural activities in the valley. Though orchards lure us for lucrative remuneration, but it is hurting us in the long run.
Aftermaths of the foolish adventure would leave us shattered and hapless. Any further laxity and complacency will make it a conflagration of horrendous extent. The issue needs immediate attention of people at the helm and common masses equally. We can avert the disaster of acute food crisis in future if the evil is nipped in the bud. Revenue department should held public awareness programmes to aware the masses about the dwindling agricultural lands. People should learn the role of agricultural land for the continuation and the sustenance of life on the planet. Farmers in general and paddy growers in particular should be granted loans and incentives. Best paddy growers should be rewarded and acknowledged. It will certainly motivate our growers to work hard in their fields.
(The Author is an Academician and a Columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)