HOUSE VS FOOD
Food, cloth, and shelter are the basic needs of a person. Every person in the world desires a home of its own but in order to survive, he also needs food.
Mainly, Pakistan is an agricultural country. Arable land and water are Pakistan’s primary natural resources. According to various sources, Pakistan is among the worlds largest food and crops producing and supplying countries. Agriculture is practiced by the large segment of Pakistan's population. Around 70 % population of Pakistan is directly or indirectly concerned with this occupation. In Pakistan, around 45 % of its labor force is engaged in agriculture which is decreasing day by day. Agriculture share in Pakistan’s GDP was 21% in 2014 which decreased to 19% in 2016-17.
While on the other hand real estate is also an important and fastly growing sector of Pakistan’s Economy. Pakistan spends billions of Dollars in construction as well as buying commercial and residential plots in a year. Demand for residential land increased in 2010, which attracted to real state developers and investors. The investment in residential lands increased by 5 to 7 percent and 15 to 20 percent increase in commercial venues across Pakistan. Due to an increasing demand for well-maintained and well-secured housing units, the trend of buying lavish homes has increased around 7 to 9 percent. According to Mohammad Shafi Jakvani, Vice Chairman, The Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) Standing Committee on Real Estate Research and Image Building, “real estate is traded as a commodity in Pakistan; speculative investors buy property in bulk, and then sell it later at an exorbitant profit.”
According to an analysis of data on the last four housing censuses indicates that the number of housing units, which were about 7.816 million in 1960, increased to 19.211 million in 1998. Thus, housing grew by 2.39. percent per annum during 1960-98, which is about 0.7 percent less than the population growth rate of the period.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, only 22 million hectares of 80 million hectares of the total geographical area of Pakistan is used for cultivation, which is about 25 percent.
Rice and wheat are the main two food sources in Pakistan and both crops are being cultivated around the major cities of Punjab and Sindh like Rawalpindi, Lahore, Sargodha, Multan, Bahawalpur, Sukkur, Haiderabad, and Karachi. And on the other hand, most of the housing societies are also in Punjab Sindh and federal that defiantly affecting these crops.
On the other hand, the recent census shows that the population of Pakistan is about 208 million. FAO claims that production of food for all has become the biggest challenge faced by Pakistanis and it will also be a challenge to balance the economic development and food security.
According to a study, the urban population of Pakistan will be almost equal to its rural population by the end of 2030. Pakistan’s population is increasing fastly and the food is a basic necessity for all, and arable land is the basic source of producing food. Farmers easily agree to sell their lands, which gives them a steady income, when they are offered a handsome price for their farms. If we start building houses on the land which is supposed to be cultivated for the crops like wheat and rice, then soon a time will come when we will have famines.
It should also be noticed that there are no laws in practice that make it customary for real estate agents to buy the agricultural land discretely and the concerned departments do not restrict the conversion of agricultural lands into commercial projects or housing schemes.
For a country whose economy is largely based on agricultural, this scenario results in negative development. The boom of real estate industry in the domain of housing societies have encouraged many individuals and groups of all denominations and has set in motion the purchase of land all across Punjab, especially on the borders of metropolitans and other major cities, thus causing the shrinkage of the lands which once provided fresh vegetables and vanishing the fields of wheat, rice, sugarcane, cotton etc.
It is high time for the government as well as the public to understand the importance of precious fertile land which is being sold for the housing schemes and commercial projects. It is cutting into our national food needs and thus will force us into greater food shortages and increase the import of foodstuff costing us dear revenue. Housing the land which provides the food is dangerous, to say the least. Is it in the favor of the nation to let these practices continue? The answer is in the negative. It is time to decide that either we want to take our country in the direction of famine like conditions or should we plan our housing strategies in such ways that do not impair the agro-based economy of Pakistan.
For a start, we must encourage the expansion of our cities vertically instead of horizontal expansion. Investors should be encouraged to develop the small cities to decrease the migration of the residents of those cities towards big cities. New planned cities like Islamabad should be developed which balance the housing and the arable lands. Laws should be made and practiced for the fair usage and purchase of the agriculture lands. The calm, serene and beautiful life of the villages must be promoted.