DURING recent high-level meetings in Punjab, various participants voiced their serious concern over the rapid conversion of agricultural land into housing societies on the periphery of cities. The concern expressed is legitimate. The problem is particularly prevalent in Punjab and Sindh, and we need to curb the commercial use of agricultural land.

All modern methods should be employed to fence and protect all areas where year-round agricultural activities have been carried out for centuries. Our food and cotton crops, as well as expanding dairy and poultry farming sectors require substantial rural and semi-urban land to remain functional at an optimum level.

We must divert all possible resources towards agriculture and allied sectors, such as dairy, fish, and poultry farming and, indeed, the fertiliser industry. A law should be introduced that makes it mandatory for all housing societies to offer 80-90 per cent small residential plots, ranging from 2.5 to 10 marlas, so that a maximum number of people could be accommodated in these development schemes. This will lessen the threat of further encroachment upon agricultural land. Besides, vertical construction should be encouraged rather than the horizontal spread of housing societies.

Regionally, we can see how China, India, Indonesia and Bangladesh are dealing with the onslaught of excessive ‘urbanisation’ in their respective rural areas. There are lessons to be learnt.

Abbas R. Siddiqi
Lahore

Published in Dawn, June 25th, 2024

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