How industrial pollution ruined farming for Udhampur villagers

Farmers in Jammu and Kashmir’s Udhampur district are upset by the industries polluting the water sources in the area. And the authorities do not seem eager to take any action | Image - Eunice Dhivya | All Photos - Bivek Mathur

Until 2015, Krishan Lal Khajuria, 80, a farmer of Sountha Panchayat in Jammu and Kashmir’s Udhampur district would grow the traditional 370 variety of Basmati rice in his around-10-kanal (1.25 acre) land. Sountha Panchayat to the south of Udhampur town is inhabited by some 4,000 people, of which 900 are voters.

The 80-year-old farmer would also grow vegetables such as knol khol (Kadam Saag in Kashmiri and Dogri language), cabbage, cauliflower, mustard, onion, radish, carrot, ladyfinger, chilly, ridge gourd, bitter gourd, pumpkin, bottle gourd etc. to earn a decent living for his family.

“My income from the sale of these cash crops used to be in between ₹5-6 lakh per annum even without road connectivity and means of transport in our village,” he says.

But in 2015, a crisis hit his farm. The rice ears of his standing crop turned white at the time of crop maturity. Initially, he thought it was a disease. But when he checked the crops of other farmers, he found the rice ears unharmed by the “disease”.

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