Lost greens

Srinagar city would grow a lot of vegetables from its famous hak-i-waris but huge population growth and urbanization has devoured these vegetable gardens. Abdul Mohamin reports.

The Kashmiri’s favorite vegetable Hakh, pollard green, must have traversed the valley borders with several northern states of India growing it, but rapid urbanization has almost wiped out the vegetable gardens (hak-i-wari) within Srinagar city.

The different varieties of the vegetable are known by the name of the localities these were grown in. The pressure on these fields has been immense as they have suffered a lot with the growing population in the city.

The hakh growing areas commonly known as hak-i-wari dotted most of the old Srinagar city.
Hakh which traditionally has remained a favorite vegetable of the locals was grown at Khanyar, Kawadara – its adjoining areas extending up to Sagrazipora Hawal, Chaidub, Aalikadal, Munawarabad with varieties tagging their names to the areas they were grown in. Today no hak-i-waris exist in most of as entire residential colonies have sprung up in these vegetable gardens.

GM Lone a seed grower at Nallahmar Road attributed this decline to the rising housing needs of the city people, besides switchover of new generation to other professions.

Lone said that five decades ago vast areas of land on both sides of Nallahmar – an erstwhile waterway traversing old city – were reserved only for cultivation of this vegetable, with Chaiduob an area in Safakadal being considered to produce the tastiest variety of hakh.  

“Even though its close competitors were Kawadara and Khanyari after which this type of hakh is still marketed, the fact remains that this cherished vegetable of Kashmiri will only remain named after its former growing areas,” said Lone adding that presently only Kawadara in old city cultivates Hakh, while the majority of hakh city people consume comes from suburban areas or villages.

The seed growers say that the demand for these varieties is still high and the growers now outsource the seed production to farms located in villages.
Lone said that dealers from other states too order this variety as the demand for hakh in northern states has picked up considerably with Kashmiris frequenting these places in winters being the main customers.

Khanyari or Kawadari two major hakh varities that are grown spring onwards , while Krame or GM Dari a variety is grown in winters along with Haenz hakh.
Abdul Rashid Mir, former administrator Srinagar Municipality said that these hak-i-waris within the city were mainly low lying and the reason for the high yield was use of purely organic manure.

“The Srinagar Municipality in those days used to sell the decomposed waste dumped in pits at Waniyar at Eidgah to the vegetable growers,” said Mir adding that this practice has almost vanished and most of vegetables including hakh that we find in markets is grown using chemical fertilizers.

The growers also had an easy access to the ground water through wells, which was used to irrigate these vegetable fields.

Mir further added that Srinagar was self sufficient in vegetables in those times, but reduction in valuable vegetables fields has downsized production drastically making us dependent on other places for vegetables.

Abdul Gani Ahangar who teaches at the Revenue Training College here told Kashmir Life that the change in land use regarding vegetable fields cannot be done. The vegetable cultivable land is called Abivari in revenue terminology in general with the part in use in urban areas called malyari and in both the cases change in land use is illegal.

“Under section 133-A the same law that governs our paddy and saffron any conversion of areas under vegetable or vegetable seeds are prohibited for any other use,” said Ahangar adding as has been witnessed for our valuable paddy and saffron areas that are being used for housing needs the malyarai land too is diminishing at its existing places giving rise to housing colonies.

The experts feel that even though on paper there are laws which prohibit the conversion of farmland into built up area or change in usage of such land, implementing that will be a tough challenge in the face of rapid population growth and absence of vertical growth in constructions in the valley.

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