Rampant conversion of agricultural lands to real estate and mega projects in the peri-urban areas around fast developing cities like Hyderabad and Bengaluru are increasing the prices of vegetables and impacting livelihoods
Living in the suburbs? Driving your swanky SUV to the office daily? Did you know your office commute on the expressway could actually be the reason for the increased bills for the greens on your dinner plate? Farfetched though it may seem, that is exactly what research on the impact of mega road projects is pointing to.
Rampant development activity and particularly megaprojects like expressways, in peri-urban areas of cities like Hyderabad and Bengaluru, are actually leading to a drastic drop in the production of vegetables. Not is this impacting traditional livelihoods as a result, but also resulting in a spike in prices, and in some cases, a drop in the quality of the produce that reaches city vegetable markets.
The nearly Rs 7000 crore Nehru ORR in Hyderabad is a 159-kilometre, eight-lane expressway encircling the city. It has changed lives with users able to zip through at 100 kms/hour. Likewise, the 64 kms long ORR and the NICE road in Bengaluru are already congested and now there is talk of a Peripheral Ring Road (PRR).
But the outcomes of such projects are not always positive, particularly where peri-urban farming and vegetable production is concerned shows research.
The ORR in Hyderabad has not only resulted in a 50% drop in production of vegetables and other greens in and around the city
For instance, the ORR in Hyderabad has not only resulted in a 50% drop in production of vegetables and other greens in and around the city, but it has also impacted the hygiene of the produce, two separate research studies by the ICRISAT and the Centre for Social and Economic Studies (CESS), have shown.
The study on the impact of development on water bodies and agricultural production in and around Hyderabad by Dr Murali Krishna Gumma, Head of Remote Sensing and the Geographic Information System unit at the ICRISAT, has shown the drastic increase in built-up areas in the West zone due to expansion of the IT industry, and industrial clusters in the East zone, has drastically brought down the extent of water bodies and rain-fed cropland to just 37,902 hectares in 2016 compared to 72,817 hectares in 2005.
The extent of water bodies and rain-fed cropland was reduced by nearly 50% to just 37,902 hectares by 2016 compared to 2005.
The study analysed urban expansion and other land use and land cover changes using multi-sensor satellite data such as IRS-P6, Landsat-8, MODIS time-series data, apart from ground survey data.
But more interestingly, in a contrary data point, the study finds that the acreage under vegetable production increased steadily between 2005 and 2016, albeit in a not too desirable manner along the Musi river irrigated by wastewater.
“From 2005 to 2016, the wastewater-irrigated area adjacent to the Musi river increased from 15,553 to 20,573 hectares, with concurrent expansion of the city boundaries from 38,863 to 80,111 hectares”, the study says.
An earlier study on Urban Mega Projects and Land Conversion in Peri-Urban Areas, Impact on Vegetable Production Due to ORR in Hyderabad by Dr C Ramachandraiah of the Centre for Economic and Social Studies (CESS), shows that agriculture ceased to be the main activity in 25 revenue mandals in and around Hyderabad on account of the development of the ORR and the conversion of lands along it to construction activity
Based on detailed surveys in 13 villages in three mandals which showed a significant decline under vegetable cultivation before and after land acquisition for the ORR. The negative externality is the transfer of vocation to the non-agricultural sector, without any adequate skill development.
Close to 81,000 hectares of agricultural land may have gone out of farming activity in the Rangareddy district alone by the year 2014
The most impacted is the Rangareddy district which has witnessed the most conversion of agricultural lands to real estate and mega projects like the ORR, IT parks and SEZs, notes the study. So much so, till 2014 close to 81,000 hectares of agricultural land may have gone out till 2014, it adds.
“At a larger context, the loss of such vegetable cultivation may add to their rising prices in the nearby urban areas,” the extensive research study says adding it may be required to identify and map the vegetable cultivation zones in the peri-urban areas and work out the policy incentives for preserving them in the larger context of safeguarding the livelihood security of the local people and promote the nutritional requirements of the urban and peri-urban population.
However, the Development Plan-2031 (Master Plan) for the Hyderabad Metropolitan Region has no such priorities for the preservation of vegetable cultivation areas in the zoning regulations leaving the door open to more such acquisition and conversion of agricultural lands to construction activity, it concludes.