Huge Tracts of Fertile Land Turns Barren Due To Official Apathy

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Canal Damaged In Budgam By Landslide In 2014 Yet To Be Restored

Ajaz Ali

Srinagar: Hundreds of acres of once fertile agricultural land in central Kashmir’s Budgam district has turned barren due to the brazen failure of the Irrigation and Flood Control Department to restore a vital water channel which was blocked by a landslide during the 2014 floods.

According to the villagers, a paddy field spread over 2000 kanals of land in the remote Batwudur area of Budgam used to be a major source of income for hundreds of families of Surasyar, Bonyen, Kathiyar and other adjoining villages till 2014. However, a landslide triggered by incessant rains in 2014 damaged the only water canal that would irrigate the paddy fields.

“Seven years have passed but no official bothered to visit the area and help with the restoration of this vital canal. Ultimately, our lands turned barren because we couldn’t irrigate them,” Mushtaq Ahmad, a villager said.

He further said that the official apathy in restoring the major water resource left hundreds of villagers in distress and forced them to convert the fertile land to cornfields.

“And if it doesn't rain on time, our corn crop also gets damaged. It’s a double whammy for all of us,” Ahmad added.

Like Ahmad, there are dozens of villagers unhappy with the alleged indifference of authorities, especially the flood and irrigation department. The IFC department, according to the villagers, could have restored the canal with minimum efforts.

“We pay water tax but struggle for every drop of water. This land was fertile for centuries but the officials turned it barren in just years due to their lackadaisical attitude,”

He further said that the villagers made repeated rounds to the office of Deputy Commissioner (DC) Budgam, other government officials and the then MLA Ghulam Nabi Lone Hanjura.

“We even raised this issue during the back to the village programme. But all our efforts went in vain,” he added.

Meanwhile, Executive Engineer, IFC department, Javed Sofi admitted that there has been a delay on part of the department in restoring the canal.

“We have prepared a proposal for restoration of this canal. There’s already a DPR which has been approved by the government. Part of this payment is going to be released to the department soon. As soon as the funds are released, we will start work,” he told Kashmir Observer.

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