From the terrace farms in the north to the languid fields of rural Punjab, farm workers are planting rice, in hopes that the yield would recover this year. Last year saw a drop in rice exports, owing in large part to locust infestation. But here, the infestation seems to entail more than just pests. In Lahore, small pastoral oases in Defence, along the Ring Road and towards the motorway, are remnants of villages that had once surrounded the capital of Pakistan’s main agricultural province. These dwindling tracts of farmland, amidst a city that now seems unrecognisable to those who have lived here all their lives, are relics of a time when it was not so unforgiving.
Every year, the dense smoke that hangs in the air (in the summer now too) grows thicker. The groundwater recedes, and the heat, exacerbated by crowded buildings and an ever endangered green-belt, suffocate the city’s inhabitants. A once verdant capital of a fertile province, now cannibalises rather than nurtures. The endless new phases of DHA and countless housing societies along the Ring Road, lie where villages used to be. But, as you make your way around the perimeter of the city, which is now virtually unidentifiable, you find patches of agrarian paradise, wilting under the intrusive sprawl of the insatiable city.