Gone is the Paddy and the Maize and so are the vegetables and other crops…all washed away in a cruel stroke, gushing water that took away hectares and hectares of agricultural vast. Apart from taking lives and infrastructure, Floods have washed away livelihoods too, of a vast majority of the population of the state of Jammu & Kashmir. Agriculture, which has been the backbone of the state’s economy, has taken the maximum brunt as assessment of damage to crops runs into several hundreds of crores. In all likelihood, the state will face a major food crisis in the days to come as there will also be a steep decline in the production of food grains, vegetables and crops.
As against a requirement of 26 lakh metric tons of food grains, the state was producing 18-19 lakh metric tons, but now the food grain production is most likely to touch only about 8-9 lakh metric tons which is far away from sufficing the requirement. And on top of this, the reality of thousands of hectares of agriculture land having been washed away would hit future production as well in a long time to come. The consequences are here for all to witness as prices of vegetables and fruits have started to shoot up.
An accumulation of sand rich silt over acres of fertile land will render it uncultivable for a considerable amount of time. The state had been producing very rich quality of rice, which is the staple diet of the people, but as all low lying areas has been severely hit, it will be virtually impossible to suffice the requirements. The total cultivated land in the state is 728. 56 lakh hectares — 378.56 hectares in Jammu and 350 hectares in Kashmir. Now after the wrath of the floods over 3800 hectares of land has turned barren. Kashmir’s agriculture fields were rich with Paddy, Maize, Oilseeds, Pulses, Vegetables, Fodder and Wheat while Jammu was rich with Maize, Paddy, Pulses, Oilseeds, Fodder, Vegetables and other crops. The state has been famous in the world for the rich quality of Saffron sown, but even that has been severely hit.
As the buck of responsibility is passed from one Government to another and more detailed estimates are plugged out, the focus should ideally now be shifted from passing the blame to planning the right steps so that agricultural land is reclaimed faster and livelihoods can be supported for those who were completely dependent on agriculture. Unless the Government takes massive steps to support the Agriculturists and Horticulturists, recovering from the onslaught will be virtually impossible.
For optimum growth of crops and plants there needs to be a proper proportion of sand (30%), soil (30%) and clay (40%) in the silt left by the floodwaters. But as there is a huge accumulation of silt in the fields owing to the floods, it is bound to disturb the nutrients in the soil as it comprises 90% sand. This silt if not removed, will finish soil fertility. The Government needs to, on an urgent basis, initiate measures to remove all silt from the fields. It also needs to come up with a realistic plan to provide relief to those affected by this massive agrarian loss. And then the consideration that, Agricultural relief is a long term process as long term investment is required on a regular basis. Every crop requires a different soil composition for quality growth and floods often result in a spread of mud that spreads over the original layers of soil adding varied properties to cultivable land. Often in such flood affected areas the Government is involved in providing relief materials and there is not much long-term involvement for reviving agriculture which still remains the largest source of livelihood. Affected farmers need timely intervention by both, the government and civil society groups to renew their spoiled agricultural lands since the costs and resources involved in regenerating eroded lands and are usually very high and beyond existent capacities.
Through activities such as leveling lands with large pits, casting out sand from sand filled lands and filling silt in the soil eroded land, much can be achieved. Training needs to be conducted for farmers on preparation and use of bio-fertilizers, growing manure crops prior to main crop season to increase soil fertility and controlling pest attack using non-pesticidal management. It has been observed in many parts of the world that by following these methods, farmers were able to cultivate paddy in the next season itself.
And more than anyone can imagine, demarcation of land holding will also pose a major challenge as the flood waters have washed away boundaries. With weeks of standing water in the revenue department offices, it remains to be seen how many records are still existent. In such a scenario, the future looks chaotic and bleak unless strong and long term planning precedes strong and sustainable action.