Pakistan is listed amongst the top 10 countries with the highest GDP in agriculture.
The agriculture sector of Pakistan plays a vital role in our economy as it is the second largest sector, accounting for over 21 percent of the total GDP.
Pakistan is the main exporter of rice, cotton, sugarcane, corn, etc.; in fact, the agricultural sector employs more than 40 percent of the nation’s workforce, therefore, being one of the key drivers of the country’s economic growth.
Recently, the caretaker minister for Agriculture and Livestock, Mr. Abdul Haleem Qasuria, directed the relevant officials to take the necessary steps at the right time to protect the agricultural land from being used to develop housing societies infrastructures.
Graana.com, in collaboration with the Iqbal Institute of Policy Studies, discusses the various dimensions of urban development and the threats it poses to agricultural land development.
Types of Agricultural Land
There are three types of different agricultural land areas such as:
In this type of land, crops such as cereals, temporary meadows for mowing or pasture, land under market or kitchen gardens, and land temporarily fallow.
Permanent cropland is cultivated with crops that occupy the land longer and need not be replanted after harvesting. This type of area can be used for vineyards and orchards.
This type of land is an extensive kind of agricultural land use, which means that it is not ploughed, and even if it is, it’s done after every few years, but commonly, a threshold of 5 years is applied.
Effect of Urban Development on Agricultural Land
The majority of agricultural land is located in rural areas outside the main cities. Due to its location, this land is often cheaper than urban land.
Consequently, it becomes an attractive target for investors seeking to purchase and utilize it for constructing large-scale projects such as housing societies.
Now, one may ask, why do the landowners sell their land, well the answer is quite simple. One, money, and two, pressure from the purchasing authority (mafia/land grabbers).
Besides these factors, the government sets crop prices too low that sometimes, to make ends meet, the farmers and landowners must sell the land.
If this trend continues, of selling the land, there will be little to no crops left to feed the locals, let alone export, or if they target exporting, the locals will suffer.
It is vital to save the land on which we grow crops; it is necessary for Pakistan’s survival and the overall economy.
The average GDP from Agriculture in Pakistan from 2006 to 2021 stood at 2,518,887.38 million PKR. The highest recorded value was 8,791,447.00 million PKR in 2021.
Around 40 percent of Pakistan’s total land area is classified as arable land, with approximately 90 percent situated in the Indus River plain across Punjab and Sindh provinces.
However, if the prevailing trend of selling land or developing projects on agricultural land continues, Pakistan’s economy could face a significant blow.
This is a concerning prospect as the agricultural industry contributes substantially to the country’s GDP and employs over 40 percent of the nation’s workforce (USAID, 2020).
During a meeting, Mr. Abdul Haleem Qasuria, an official representative, issued directives on the aforementioned topic.
He emphasized that illegal construction on agricultural land would adversely impact the economy, considering agriculture’s significant role in strengthening the overall economic framework.
Consequently, he firmly stated that housing societies and similar projects should not be developed on agricultural lands.
He also stated that Pakistan is an agricultural country, and this sector is vital for Pakistan. According to an estimate, around 70 percent of the people depend on agriculture. Without further planning, construction on such land will cause massive problems for the country. (Bureau Report, 2023)
It is pertinent to mention that the government of Pakistan has undertaken an initiative to enhance the agricultural sector over the next five years by introducing the “Prime Minister’s Agriculture Emergency Programme.”
The primary objective of this program is to boost agricultural productivity, create value, and reduce reliance on imports.
By striving for a sustainable economy and decreasing the need for imports, the program aims to improve the livelihoods of the neglected farming community. (Pakistan, 2020)
The Way Forward
Mapping provides a straightforward and visual way to understand land allocation for construction purposes and identify prohibited areas.
By implementing a mapping feature and making it accessible online, developers can conveniently verify the land and see its properties.
This includes determining the type of land and the specific regulations governing its construction activities. Such a feature allows individuals to access relevant information about the land, enabling informed decision-making regarding its suitability for construction projects.
In addition to the aforementioned measures, it is crucial for the government to exercise close monitoring of such activities, as they are currently blindsided of them unless they are specifically reported.
Therefore, the government must conduct regular surveys and assessments to ensure compliance with regulations, ascertain the status of ongoing projects, and verify that everything is in order.
If not done, there is a risk that the lands designated for agricultural purposes may be utilized for developmental activities. If such a trend continues unchecked, it could potentially trigger a domino effect, ultimately leading to a collapse of the economy in the near future.
Pakistan is an agricultural country, and there is no doubt that if we don’t do anything to protect this industry, then we will also be amongst the ones suffering; we need to protect the agricultural land as if it is used for other purposes such as development, the repercussions will have to be faced by every individual considering we will be dependent on import for the sake of daily essentials.
The initiatives taken by the government and Mr Abdul Haleem have been appreciated seeing as how they are working towards the betterment of Pakistan; not only that, but due to their efforts, they have created more opportunities for farmers and given them a chance to improve their lives and standards further, this alone is a considerable factor seeing as if a farmer is being well paid.
Their needs are being met; they can afford education for their children, which can later benefit Pakistan.
Our literacy rate will improve, our poverty rate will decrease, we will rely less on imports and can start exporting larger quantities, and the overall economy (GDP) will improve.
This article is written by Shahmeer Adnan. Shahmeer Adnan is a Research Analyst at the Iqbal Institute of Policy Studies (IIPS).