At a time when the contribution of agriculture and allied activities to the Gross State Domestic Product (GSDP) has shrunk to a mere 4 per cent, the Puducherry government has proposed to convert around 77 hectares of agricultural land located in various revenue villages into residential plots.
According to a notification issued by the Pondicherry Planning Authority (PPA), suggestions have been invited for effecting the conversion of a total area of 86 hectares, 31 acres, including 77 acres of agricultural land, under various revenue villages in Puducherry region.
This includes a, 18-acre-and-98-centiares water body in Thengaithittu revenue village and two groves -- one in Murungapakkam revenue village measuring 26 acres and another in Thengaithittu revenue village measuring 48 acres and 50 centiares.
Interestingly, the committee, under the planning secretary of the Department of Town and Country Planning, constituted to regulate the unauthorised conversion of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes, cleared the proposal for conversion of 77 hectares of land into residential plots.
The move is in sharp contrast to the 12th plan vision document of the government, which has the objective of boosting the contribution of agriculture and allied activities to the State Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by at least 10 per cent by the end of 12th Five Year Plan.
The vision of the government also states that attempts would be made for a balanced and sustainable growth in agricultural sector.
The large scale migration of people from other States -- which has increased by 4.6 per cent, as indicated in the Census data -- is pushing the conversion of land.
Agriculturist are also preferring to sell their land as real estate has become more lucrative than agriculture.
Last year, six hectares and one acre of agricultural land, including a grove, were converted for construction of houses. In 2012, agricultural land in nine areas had been converted for residential use.Sources said that the agricultural land is projected to further shrink to 3.34 per cent of the GSDP in the current financial year. This would be due to agricultural land conversions effected earlier in the year.
However, environmentalists are upping the ante against conversion of agriculture land.
“With the agricultural land getting covered by concrete, there is no percolation of water, and the groundwater recharge has reduced, leaving the water table depleted. This is resulting in the intrusion of sea water, making the ground water saline,” said Priya Davidar, professor of Ecology, Department of Ecology and Environmental Sciences of Pondicherry University.