Agricultural sector accounts for 16 per cent of the country’s GDP. But, this vital sector faces a grave threat due to fast-shrinking agricultural lands from the country. According to a report of a study conducted by the Soil Resource Development Institute, nearly 69,000 hectares of agricultural land have been shrinking annually due to rapid industrialisation, unplanned urbanisation and increase in rural settlements. The report also predicted that there will be no cultivable land in the country in 50 years if farmland is taken away for non-farm purposes at this current rate. If the trend is not reversed right now, the future of the country’s food security looks bleak.
It is natural that loss of agricultural land keeps an adverse effect on food production. But, instead of decreasing food output, the country's crop production per unit of land increased considerably over the years due to pragmatic efforts taken by the government and the agricultural scientists. This has helped feed the country's ever growing population to a great extent. But, it requires continued efforts on the part of all stakeholders to maintain the momentum. Loss of agri-land means a rise in environmental problems such as soil degradation, air pollution, transportation problems, loss of critical habitat and green space as well as degradation of water quality. Climatic disruption in recent times, followed by salinity intrusion, shrinking of forests and crop losses, has multiplied to the woes of the cultivators. So, protection of agri-lands should remain at the forefront of the government policy.However, in recent times, the government has taken some steps, including banning use of arable land for purposes other than agriculture. This is indeed a laudable step. But, the government alone will not be able to develop the agricultural sector. The NGOs operating in the countryside need to supplement the government’s efforts.
Experts have suggested that the mills and factories and educational institutions that have already been built should now go vertical. The authorities concerned should go for regular surveys of arable lands to present an accurate figure so that necessary steps can be taken to save the farmlands.