In a disturbing act, the Jammu and Kashmir government has issued an advisory to the farmers in the State to stop cultivating paddy crops in their farmlands. The advisory was issued by the irrigation and flood control department in few districts of north Kashmir including Kupwara and Baramulla.
It has now extended to central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district as well. The advisory reads that due to less snowfall and change in weather conditions in Kashmir, most of the ponds and natural water resources have dried up.
It maintains that owing to receding water level in the river and other sources, the irrigation and flood control department may not be able to provide adequate water for the paddy crops. The aim of restricting farmers from cultivating paddy this year is to avoid their losses.
However, the department has insisted them to yield drought resistance crops like maize and cereals in the paddy fields. Such crops require very less water and normally depend on the rain water. The measures are very precautionary though. Drought has not been officially declared in Kashmir.
Much will be depending on the rains in the coming summers as the backbone of Kashmir’s economy; horticulture is entirely dependent on timely rains.
It is estimated that horticulture is over INR 4000 crores industry and more than 65 per cent population depends on it.The industry with certain slews by the government and the growing demand of apple fruit in the domestic and international market is expected to grow many folds. However, its fate may also be uncertain, owing to the substantial changes in the weather conditions of Kashmir.
Even though Kashmir weather predominantly supports rice cultivation and its 100 per cent population consumes rice, by and large to sustain its character, rice is imported from other neighbouring states since the major chunk of agri land has illegally been converted into horticulture and for residential purposes.
It is estimated that from 2002, around 1.70 lakh hectares were under the paddy cultivation and Valley has lost more than 2000 hectares of paddy land.
Now, for self- sustenance, Kashmir is only left with the horticulture industry where the weather has a main character to play. It will always depend on timely rain and snowfall. Unlike agriculture, there is no mechanism in place to irrigate the orchards in case of rain deficiency.
So the onus lies on the common masses to preserve the environment for survival. Ecologically, Kashmir is a fragile place with rich flora and fauna. But ironically our green cover is depleting fast and the natural water resources are drying up alarmingly.
The glaciers are melting. Lakes, wetlands, rivers have been encroached upon by the people. Over the years, Wular lake has shrunk drastically from 217.8 square kilometers in 1911 to a mere 50 square kilometres. Kashmir, in 1880 had 65 percent land covered under virgin forests.
This was reduced to 37 percent in the last century. As the nature seems angry with our trickling to it, the time has come with these warnings for us to introspect for the survival of our future generations.
There is a need to preserve the natural resources now more than ever. There is a need to expand the green swaths in the barren lands and also to increase the plantations around our habitation. Natural water sources need protection from encroachers and from pollution. Otherwise, the time is approaching when nature will show us its fury and put our existence in threat.