By Tanveer Ahmad:

Jammu and Kashmir is predominantly an agrarian economy with about 80% of its the population engaged in agriculture and allied sectors. Land being one of the basic natural resources has always been the subject matter of debate regarding its effective use. One of the major problems being faced by the state is the conversion of agricultural land to non-agricultural land due to urbanization and other activities.

As per agriculture department figures, two lakh kanals of agriculture land of the net sown or cultivated area of three and a half lakh hectare has been converted for commercial and other purposes in Kashmir over the years. As per the economic survey, 2011, J&K state has been listed as a food deficit state, therefore, agriculture land conversion especially that of paddy fields is a serious issue both from the perspective of food security as well as environmental impacts. It is visible that the total production of food-grains in the state does not keep pace with the requirements.

Evidently, this loss of prime agriculture land has further pushed the state’s dependence on outside supplies to meet its food requirements and the present state has to import about 07 MTs of food grains every year. Time is not far when the state will be 100% food grain deficit if the authorities fail to take the necessary steps.

Agriculture land can be protected from being used for non-agriculture purposes if the authorities take appropriate steps at the right time. Concerned authorities, agriculture universities and NGO’s need to organize awareness programs to make people aware of the issue. As an individual, we could help by:

(i) spreading awareness in urban areas, by encouraging people not to haggle in farmer markets,

(ii) inviting experts to share knowledge,

(iii) organizing free workshops in villages that can teach useful skills to the poor for creating alternate income sources,

(iv) not wasting food and

(v) training rural youth to understand financing solutions. The state has enough laws to prohibit the conversion of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes but there is a need for implementation of such laws.

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