Srinagar, Apr 11: The Kashmir region has witnessed a steady conversion of wetland, farmland into non-agricultural use over the past three decades.
About 20% of agricultural land are said to be converted for commercial or residential purposes in last few years.
The experts believe that Agriculture and wetland in entire state is shrinking at an alarming rate, particularly in and around Srinagar, Baramullah, Sopore, Anantnag and other main towns of the region. “The state government continues to be a mere spectator to the onslaught of urbanization. Though there are a multiple reasons for this trend, the decrease is mainly attributed to diversion of cultivable land for non-agricultural purposes, including construction, industries and other development activities,” they said.
According to the government data available with KNS about 80% of people engaged in agriculture are in the rural areas of the state and their sole means of livelihood is farming. “If the trend continues for another 10 years, the state could see a major food crisis,” one of the former Horticultural officer told KNS.
The trend of losing farmland to urbanization has left farmers worried. The real estate boom around major towns will lead to a devastating food crisis in the state in coming years. If land is to be used for anything other than agriculture, government’s permission must be sought. However, most of our politicians are hand-in-glove with these builders. It’s they who determine the use of land, resulting in the mushrooming of construction on agricultural lands,” alleged the social activists.
He said that the large paddy fields separating the towns from the nearby villages are now the sites of multi-storied commercial complexes, shopping malls, schools, service centres and residential colonies. This has had a direct effect on agricultural productivity in the region.
According to Jammu and Kashmir Economic Survey report 2014-15, the estimated contribution of agriculture to State Gross Domestic Product (GSDP) has fallen from 28% in 2004-5 to 17%. The shortfall in food grains, which was 32% in 1950-51, is now 82 %.
The survey goes on to note that, while 70% of the population depends directly or indirectly on agriculture, the proportion of the labour force engaged in agriculture has declined from 85% in 1961, to 28% today. Farmers have not found other work in kashmir, due to the absence of a viable industrial and service sector.
Another social activist said that the lack of industry or service sector and rapid urbanization in Kashmir are linked due to the conflict of the last two and a half decades. “Due to militancy and counter-insurgency operations, the rural areas which were the most unsafe were left by the residents who fled to bigger cities, principally Srinagar, for safety. According to 2014-15 J&K economic survey, the largest urban area is in Srinagar district, where 98.6% of people live in urban areas, followed by Jammu district with 50%. In 2011. A London based-based City Mayors Foundation came out with a ranking of the fastest growing urban areas in the world, and Srinagar ranked 92 out of the top 300 such urban areas,” he maintained.
It is been seen that the residential colonies have come up in the low-lying flood plains of Kandizaal, Soitang, Padshahi Bagh, Kursoo, and further downstream on the Jhelum River in the Kashmir valley. These areas used to be the flood basin of Jhelum and their filling up contributed to unprecedented flooding in September 2014.
The observers believe that unfortunately the laws have often been violated by the government itself. Across Bemina the state government has constructed colleges, offices and even the Srinagar Development Authority on marshy land that once acted as the city’s flood basin.
Rail service resumes
Srinagar, Nov 12: Rail services in Kashmir resumed on Tuesday – over three months after being suspended due to security reasons in view of the Centre’s decision to abrogate Article 370, officials said.
Few mini-buses also plied on the Batwara-Batamaloo route through the city centre, while inter-district cabs and auto-rickshaws plied in the city and elsewhere in the valley.
Private transport was plying unhindered.
A railway official told PTI that a train chugged between Baramulla and Srinagar this morning.
He said the train made only two trips on the Baramulla-Srinagar stretch as authorities have directed Railways to ply trains between 10 am and 3 pm only due to security reasons.
The Railways conducted the trial run of the service on the stretch on Monday for the first time in over three months since the unannounced shutdown in the valley.
The official said the Srinagar-Banihal stretch of the railway line would resume in a few days after checking track safety and conducting trial runs.
The train service in the valley was suspended due to security reasons on the morning of 5 August – hours before the Centre announced its decision to abrogate Article 370 of the Constitution and to bifurcate the erstwhile state into two Union territories.
The Centre’s decision led to an unannounced shutdown in the valley – which completed 100 days on Tuesday — even as authorities imposed severe restrictions which were later gradually eased out.
Markets have been following a new pattern of functioning, opening early morning till around the noon and then downing their shutters to join the protest against abrogation of the special status of the state, officials said.
They said miscreants are using fear mongering to put down any resistance to unannounced shutdown by threatening shopkeepers and businessmen.
The officials said two grenade attacks in the city’s busy Goni Khan market and Kaka Sarai areas were an indication that there were concerted efforts to keep the shutdown going.
Pre-paid mobile phones and all internet services continued to remain suspended since 5 August.
Most of the top level and second rung separatist politicians have been taken into preventive custody while mainstream leaders including two former chief ministers — Omar Abdullah and Mehbooba Mufti — have been either detained or placed under house arrest.
The government has detained former chief minister and sitting Lok Sabha MP from Srinagar Farooq Abdullah under the controversial Public Safety Act.
Militant killed in Ganderbal gunfight
Srinagar, Nov 12: A militant was killed and an Army soldier injured in an encounter between militants and security forces in Jammu and Kashmir’s Ganderbal district on Tuesday, police said.
Security forces launched a cordon-and-search operation in Kulan area of the central Kashmir district in the morning following inputs about the presence of militants.
During the search, the hiding militants fired upon the security forces, who retaliated, according to an officer.
A militant was killed during the gunfight. An army soldier was also injured and rushed to a medical facility for treatment, the officer said.
The identity and group affiliation of the slain militant is yet to be ascertained. The operation is on and further details are awaited, the officer added.
The incident comes after the encounter where two militants were killed in an encounter with security forces in Bandipora district of north Kashmir on Monday morning, police said.
While one militant was killed on Sunday during a gunfight between security forces in Lawdara village, about 55 km from Srinagar, another was killed on Monday, police further said. The security forces started a search operation on getting information about the presence of some militants in the area which led to the encounter between the security forces and the militants.
The streak of encounters continues as the state of Kashmir remains under an unprecedented lockdown after the abrogation of article 370.
Unscheduled power cuts affect research in KU
Srinagar, Nov 05: Unscheduled power cuts have severely hit the research work in the University of Kashmir.
“I am doing research on plant ecology and most of my work depends on high definition equipments which work on electricity. I collected plant samples twice from Gulmarg and kept it in freezer for further examination. For four days there was no electricity and with the result my samples became unusable,” said a research scholar.
Another research scholar in Kashmir University said due to frequent power cuts their research work is getting affected. “My equipment developed errors due to power cuts. With the result, it started displaying false readings”, he said.
An official in the Kashmir University said over Rs 25 crore have been sanctioned for 50 different projects in the department of biotechnology, clinical bio-chemistry, botany, zoology, nanotechnology, pharmacy, environmental science, physics, electronics and chemistry.
“The high definition equipment, which works in -80, -20, -120 temperature, are imported from abroad. Regular power cuts are affecting these equipments,” the official said.
Speaking to The Kashmir Monitor, Chief Engineer PDD, Qazi Hashmat said Kashmir University being a premier institute should install a backup power system to meet exigencies.
“PDD has proposed to provide dedicated power supply from 33 KV line. Once the university credits the amount, we will start work on installation of the line,” Qazi said.
Spokesperson of Kashmir University, Professor Shahid Rasool said the issue has not been brought into hid notice. “I will check with the department heads and resolve it as soon as possible,” he said.
Sources said Kashmir University had signed memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the PDD to provide 24*7 power supply. Sources said two kanals of land was also earmarked for establishing receiving station for uninterrupted power supply. Sources said Kashmir University is paying Rs 4.2 lakh as monthly electricity tariff to the PDD.