The October 16 is observed as the World Food Day aiming to ensure global food security. However, just few days before the celebrated day, the Ravi Urban Development Authority (Ruda) has got two cases registered against several farmers — the curators of our food and architects of agricultural economy of Pakistan. They were charged for allegedly threatening officials and intervening in state affairs in the area of greedily controversial Ravi Riverfront Urban Development Project. It is very unfortunate the covetous authorities of RUDA in their lust for real estate and have no clue about security of food and future of Pakistan.
World Food Day 2022
The World Food Day is an annual feature to highlight the millions of people worldwide who cannot afford a healthy diet and the need for regular access to nutritious food. It is being marked with multiple global challenges, including the COVID-19 pandemic, conflict, climate change, rising prices and international tensions. All of that are affecting global food security. However, for Pakistan the foremost challenges to ensure food security recently are the recent flood devastation and the rise in waning agricultural land for real estate ambitions.
The former has just eroded a sizable cultivated land, destroyed crops, livestock and caused soil erosion due to unprecedented monsoon rainfall across the country. While, the latter is an aimless practice on behalf of private and state-owned developers to turn large swathes of green lands into concrete jungles in both rural and urban areas.
Pakistan Flood 2022
Pakistan Flood 2022 has devastated homes and farmland across the country. At least 4 million acres of crops have been destroyed causing $30 to $35 billion economic devastation as estimated by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. The agriculture sector makes up nearly a fourth of Pakistan’s gross domestic product at 22.7%. The heavy rainfall which began in July though stopped, however, many cultivated areas in Baluchistan and Sindh provinces remain flooded. The land is still under water where it is not possible to grow anything for a long while.
Sherry Rehman, Pakistan’s climate change minister, said half of the country’s breadbasket had been wiped out in the floods. “Clearly, there will be shocks to the food security of the country. We are not sure how the sowing season will really take place with this much water or damp soil.” Reduced agricultural production means nothing but massive food inflation with a sharp rise in import bill which is already growing year by year at 50%.
Waning Agricultural Lands
It is really pity that country’ commanding and planning authorities consider new shiny skyscrapers and sprawling gated-communities as yardsticks of development and progress, and turn their back on the long-term consequences of these gray spaces. The endless greed for real estate development is fast devouring sizable amount of fertile agricultural lands. Real estate developers offer farmers triple the market price, which is an irrefutable temptation for them and farmers are increasingly selling out their holdings to real estate developers.
That mounting practice is fast devouring Pakistan’s agricultural lands may have cascading effects on the country’s food security in days to come. The increasing population and housing needs have already turned large swathes of fertile lands into concrete jungles in recent years in northeastern Punjab and southern Sindh provinces, which are considered the country’s two main bread-baskets. Despite, the pace at which agricultural lands are being sold and housing societies are cropping up suggests that the days are not far when there would be chaos and people will literally fight over food grains. After all, housing societies cannot be converted back into farmlands.
Ravi Riverfornt Urban Development Project
More importantly the societies so developed are all meant for the rich and never for poor or low-income strata. Take the example of Ravi River Front Urban Project. Various official spokesmen termed the ambitious project “game changer” and likened to creating an alternative to Dubai, Istanbul and London for the benefit of Pakistani tourists. The ambitious project on 124,000 acre of land alongside River Ravi has been largely framed via acquiring and grabbing land from farmers and other land holders. Couple of days ago, the Ruda officials lodged FIR against farmers stating that they threatened and misbehaved with the authority`s security guards when they stopped their tractors and plowing.
The farmers are unwilling to vacate their land but Ruda continues in its hunt of land acquisition process by force and temptation and even claims as it has taken official acquisition of land. However, the chief of the joint action committee of the Ravi project affectees Mian Mian Mustafa Rasheed says “The award of our land and its transfer to the government is totally fake, as it was done when the Lahore High Court had already granted stay order, scrapped the project and the final decision of the Supreme Court that allowed Ruda to only launch environment improvement-related activities at the land acquired already and the owners have received payments or compensation.”
After the recent flood devastation that forecasts a serious food insecurity crisis in coming days, it is time the government should incentivize the farmers by giving subsidies on seeds and fertilizers. Besides, it rolls out micro-financing schemes for each crop to ensure availability of vegetables and edible goods. But, turning a blind eye on diminishing agricultural land for real estate ambitions with projects like Ravi Riverfront City, it is ploughing nothing but food insecurity.