Govt projects encroaching on Swat’s agricultural land

KP govt imposes section four on state lands, leading to protest from area’s elders

Picture source - Reuters

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government has imposed section four on state lands for various developmental projects in Swat, leading to protest from the elders of the area.

Siraj Khan, from Swat’s Matta tehsil, has been involved in horticulture and agriculture for many years. His orchards have various fruit trees, including various varieties of apples.

The imposition of section four on 13 kanals and 16 marlas of agricultural land of Siraj has given him sleepless nights.

Talking to Minute Mirror, Siraj said that section four was causing him severe difficulties and distress, while he considered it as economic murder. He added that there were different types of apple trees in his garden which took a long time to grow.

“I have worked hard on these gardens, and this is the source of livelihood for me and my family. But due to political differences with me, the government has now put section four on my land so that a sports complex could be built here,” he added.

According to Siraj, he is a social activist and raises his voice on various issues due to which he was being a victim of “political revenge”.

“There is no paved road to my gardens, and it is not located on the side of the road, yet my land has been deliberately placed in section four. I am being financially murdered,” he lamented.

At present, 57 such development projects were underway in Swat for which section four has been set up on the lands.

According to the information received from the office of Swat Deputy Commissioner Junaid Khan, these projects are being completed through various departments, and they are the ones imposing section four for their respective projects. The deputy commissioner said that committees have been formed for the projects in which agricultural lands have been included, adding that local elders have been taken on board. “And now through these committees, locals’ concerns are being addressed, and efforts were afoot to save agricultural land,” he added.

According to the deputy commissioner, the land was being paid to the owners based on annual transfers, which is less than the market rate.

Another major project in Swat the Swat Expressway (Motorway) has also been marked at various places. It will start from Chakdara highway and end at Fatehpur. Several houses have also been included in the marking, leading to local elders expressing grief and anger.

Advocate Fatehullah, a resident of the Ningolai area, said that three maps had been cleared for the Swat Expressway in which the last map had been marked by including agricultural lands and private houses of the people.

“The Swat Expressway on the banks of the river Swat has infiltrated into agricultural lands at various places, which is killing us economically, and valuable lands are being bought at exorbitant price,” he said. Fatehullah further said that “we are not against development; expressway must be built but away from Swat river bank and agricultural lands. So that on one hand tourists get to see beautiful scenery on the expressway and, on the other hand, our agricultural lands could be saved.”

Agricultural lands have been purchased for various projects through section four, which is affecting agriculture and depriving the people of their livelihood, he added.

The district administration and government representatives said that committees had been formed for the Swat Expressway, and the concerns of local elders would be addressed soon. Efforts would be made to save the agricultural lands, they said.