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Urbanisation is damaging the Valley's beauty

Urbanisation is damaging the Valleys beauty

Incredible though it may appear, the erstwhile fertile fields and wetlands are now being plundered by construction projects in Jammu and Kashmir! Annually losing an average of 1,375 hectares of agricultural land, Kashmir's picturesque wetlands and lush green agriculture lands are decaying fast. According to the official figures, cultivable land in the Kashmir region dwindled from 1,63,000 hectares in 1996 to 1,19,000 hectares in 2016. Unplanned constructions like residential colonies, factories, brick kilns, shopping complexes and other commercial infrastructure have harshly damaged the agricultural and ecological resources of the Valley. Not only that, Srinagar has also lost 50 per cent of its wetlands since 1911. It may be noted that Jammu and Kashmir is mostly reliant on the import of food grains from other states and the magnitude of dependence is increasing day by day. Surprisingly, in a letter to the government in March 2016, Kashmir's agriculture director Showkat Ahmad Beigh categorically reported: "Due to the haphazard land conversion, the agricultural land has considerably shrunk in Kashmir, as per door to door surveys conducted by the field workers of the agriculture department."

The impact of rapid urbanisation had also reduced agriculture's contribution to the state's gross domestic product (SGDP), which fell from 28 per cent in 2004-05 to 17 per cent in 2016-17. Alarmingly, the workforce employed in the agriculture sector of Jammu and Kashmir had declined from 85 per cent in 1961 to 28 per cent in 2016. The massive urban growth in Srinagar and other major towns of Kashmir had also resulted in a huge ecological imbalance. Surprisingly, Srinagar had grown 18 times in terms of population and 30 times in terms of area between 1901 and 2016, subsequently shortening or destroying the region's lakes and wetlands. It may be noted that Srinagar earlier had wetlands of over 13,426 hectares in 1911, which has now reduced to around 5,347 hectares in 2016. This amounts to a loss of 8,979 hectares in 105 years. Encroachment of Srinagar's wetlands and waterways had also made the city highly susceptible to floods. The time has come for both the state and central governments to chalk out a plan to conserve the precious wetlands of the Valley. Otherwise, like Batamaloo Nambal, Rakh-i-Gandakshah, Rakhi-i-Arat and Rakh-i-Khankhan, other lakes will also be buried only in the history of the Valley.

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