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Kashmir stares at food crisis as paddy land conversion continues

In 2023, it shrunk by 33,309 hectares, leaving a mere 1,29,000 hectares currently allocated for paddy cultivation.
Last Updated : 07 October 2023, 08:47 IST
Last Updated : 07 October 2023, 08:47 IST

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Lush green paddy fields, which provided food for the people, are rapidly disappearing and being replaced by unabated and haphazard concrete construction in Kashmir.

In just over a decade, Kashmir has lost an alarming 33,309 hectares of paddy fields to conversion, official data reveals. In 2012, Kashmir boasted approximately 1,62,309 hectares of land dedicated to paddy cultivation.

In 2023, it shrunk by 33,309 hectares, leaving a mere 1,29,000 hectares currently allocated for paddy cultivation. The conversion of paddy land into bustling colonies with towering structures has not only raised concerns but also cast a shadow on the region’s agricultural future.

Construction of houses in paddy land is especially on the rise especially in villages and towns. Not only is conversion happening for commercial purposes, but people are also moving towards horticulture, experts believe. The other reason for moving towards horticulture is drying up of glacier-fed streams in the Himalayan region.

“Paddy land in Kashmir is rapidly diminishing. We are doing our part to enhance per-hectare yields, which benefits farmers, but the soaring land prices make it tempting for them to sell off their land for urban development,” a senior official of the Agriculture department told DH.

He said paddy land has been overtaken by housing and commercial constructions. “The land is being swallowed up due to road construction and the erection of massive structures,” the official said and added as fruits generate high returns, farmers are also converting their paddy land into orchards.

Parvazi Wani, a farmer from Shopian in south Kashmir said he planted hybrid apple trees on his land in 2020. “Earlier I used to grow paddy and mustard. But scarce irrigation in previous years caused huge losses. The produce did not even pay for the labour or the seeds,” he said.

Several studies have suggested that glaciers in the Himalayas are retreating rapidly, affecting the water availability downstream. “Not only apple trees require less water for irrigation, but also give high returns compared to paddy. Farmers have no choice but to convert their paddy land into orchards,” Wani added.

However, rising demand for local rice in Kashmir, spurred by reduced government allocations through the public distribution system, has led to an increase in prices of rice in the last two years.

The alarming pace at which Kashmir’s paddy fields are being converted has raised serious concerns about food security in the region. The Economic Survey report reveals that the unabated conversion of agricultural land in the Valley for non-agriculture activities was causing 60 per cent of the population to become poorer by the day.

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Published 07 October 2023, 08:47 IST

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