Housing companies ‘eat up’ fertile farmland – Pakistan
MULTAN: Agriculture, being the mainstay of Pakistan’s economy, faces many challenges and the development of residential societies on fertile land is one of the major causes affecting agricultural productivity.
About 68% of the population living in rural areas of the country is directly or indirectly linked to the agricultural sector, with this sector contributing almost 20% of gross domestic product and more than 60% of export goods.
Therefore, it is a difficult task for the government not only to utilize the full potential of the current agricultural land, but also to improve its area by putting more land under cultivation.
But, it has been seen in recent years that instead of adding more land to the existing ones for agricultural purposes, the massive development of housing societies on rich agricultural land is reducing the land already available.
This trend is endemic near most major cities across the country where thousands of acres of farmland have been converted to housing corporations. If this trend continues in the next few decades or so, the fertile lands of the country will come under extreme pressure from population growth.
“With population growth, housing needs are also increasing. This trend is reflected in the expansion of cities into the adjacent rich agricultural lands,” said Vice Chancellor Nawaz Sharif of the University of Agriculture, Dr. Asif Ali.
“There is no doubt that we need more housing units with the increase in population, but that does not mean using our agricultural land for this purpose,” he added, saying that in countries like Singapore, where plain is not available, the structure is built vertically.
Dr. Asif felt that the government should pay special attention to the housing sector by introducing a comprehensive plan in which the alternative options are introduced and new towns on barren land should be established instead of using fertile land for housing. housing companies.
“By developing societies on fertile land, we compromise biodiversity, landscaping and irrigation infrastructure,” lamented.
He said that farmers have to work for years to make the land fertile and that it is unfair that when this land starts giving optimum production, the owners sell it to developers to make more money.
“What we gain today by selling fertile land will pose serious problems for us to meet the food needs of our population which is already growing at the rate of about 2% per year,” he added.
Since Pakistan already faces the problem of low agricultural productivity compared to other countries in the region, the decline in fertility associated with climate change would be more difficult.
For example, in Pakistani Punjab, the average yield per acre of wheat is almost 31 maund compared to 45 maund in Indian Punjab. The same thing happens in the case of other crops whose product is inferior to that of other countries in the region.
“In this scenario, we need a multi-pronged strategy. On the one hand, we need to improve productivity and, on the other hand, identify land to build more housing,” he pleaded.
“Our agricultural sector is already facing various challenges, including poor quality seeds, substandard and expensive inputs, unbalanced use of fertilizers, excessive use of pesticides, infertility and soil erosion,” he said. said Dr. Asif. “In this situation, the growing trend of urbanization and establishment of housing societies on fertile land would be deadly for the agricultural sector.”
He said that before establishing new cities, there should be a proper survey of the site, the ecological balance and the presence of underground water. In addition, each company should be responsible for ensuring sufficient tree planting in these establishments.
The unplanned expansion of cities into fertile land also damages fruit-bearing plants, as evidenced by Multan where hundreds of mango trees were cut down to use the land for housing.
“The mango orchards are the beauty of South Punjab. We have the best varieties of mangoes which are also exported to other countries to earn hard currency,” said Laique Sheikhana, a progressive farmer.
“But, in the rush to build housing societies and make more money, mango trees have been wiped out on hundreds of acres of fertile land,” he added. “A mango orchard takes years to develop but is cut down in a few hours. It’s too cruel and it would make us suffer in the future in terms of edible items.
He suggested that the government strictly prohibit the development of housing companies on fertile land and allocate them alternative and less fertile land for this purpose.
If we see the big cities like Lahore, Faisalabad, Multan, Gujranwala, Sialkot, Bahawalpur and the smaller towns, the establishment of housing corporations is rampant with developers and policy makers who care least about the emerging challenge of food security national.
“If this trend continues unchecked, over the next three to four decades we will waste thousands of acres of our farmland,” said fellow farmer Mian Ishnaaq Watto.
He said that in addition to orchards, most of the land adjacent to urban areas is used for growing vegetables. “With the development of housing societies on these lands, we are going to face a shortage of vegetables.”
“It can never be called wise to destroy our edibles chain for the purpose of building residential units,” he added. “Will these houses be for any purpose when we fail to meet our needs for edible items.”
Therefore, it is imperative for the authorities to devise a mechanism in which developers develop companies to meet the need for housing units, but not at the cost of fertile agricultural land.