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Horticulturists demand protecting agriculture land from urban sprawl

By Our Correspondent
March 24, 2021

MULTAN: Horticulturists have demanded a complete ban on mango orchard cutting in Multan district and urged government to immediately declare the annexed plantations a green zone in the master plan for protection.

Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) quoting reports said around 6,000 acres of mango orchards across the city have been cut down till now. It should be recalled here that Multan district contributed around 25 percent to the total production of mangoes in Pakistan.

FPCCI former chief on Horticulture Exports Ahmad Jawad said, “It takes 15-20 years for a mango seedling to grow into a proper tree.”

Population growth, migration, and its resultant urbanisation have impacted land distribution around the world. The case is similar in Pakistan.

Though conversion of agricultural and cultivable lands into housing societies was a big challenge and it happens all over the country, it should be stopped immediately. “High-rise buildings may be constructed instead of horizontal ones to minimise the use of land,” he suggested.

He further pointed out that small farmers of the country were meted out ad hoc treatment, and their problems were not addressed. “These real estate companies tackled them in a tactful way,” Jawad added.

Pakistan derives 19.3 percent of its gross domestic product from agricultural activity, which also absorbs a huge number of workers directly and indirectly.

In view of these facts, Jawad urged to notice the plight of farmers, and also to prioritise the sector as industry and exports were also connected to agriculture. “With dwindling water resources and capitulating fertile agriculture lands to real estate mafia, future generations may face hunger and poverty.”

FPCCI official also said back in 2019, the annual deforestation rate in Pakistan was recorded at its highest.

In view of that, establishment of housing projects on agricultural or forest land would further reduce the green cover. Housing projects on unproductive and infertile lands would reduce pressure on agriculture lands.

The Lahore High Court (LHC) had also observed that deforestation increases the spread of life-threatening diseases. More so, it ordered the Punjab government, DHA, and various other development authorities to make a comprehensive policy for tree plantation, while penalising those who removed, cut, or damaged trees.

Academics and industry experts have claimed that shrinking agricultural land could render populations food insecure, something that the policy makers need to take into account before allowing urbanisation and urban sprawl to take up agriculture, pasture and forest lands.