Saline agriculture be promoted to save Thar

September 12, 2014 Off By Web Desk

KARACHI: Geotechnical Engineer Zahoor Ahmed Abbasi said on Saturday that saline agriculture should be promoted in Tharparkar in order to save the area from a recently drought-like crisis.

“There are certain plants or vegetables that could be easily grown through salty water of Thar such as potato, sugar beet, barley, tomato and Alfalfa grass,” he said this while speaking on the topic of Groundwater Resources of Thar in International Conference on Creating Food Self Sufficiency in Thar Utilizing Indigenous Groundwater Resources. The conference was organized by Dawood University of Engineering & Technology’s Centre for Innovation, Research, Creativity, Learning and Entrepreneurship (CIRCLE).

He said that the present crops that were cultivated in Thar only depended on rainwater. A good amount of rain in monsoon could be enough for one or two years of need as water could be drawn from wells. The land of Thar is very fertile with only a one rain you would see greenery all around.

Abbasi said that many studies had been conducted to bring the Indus River water into Thar but it was found to be almost impossible because it was very costly, technically difficult and unreliable. “It has been ruled out as Thar is on high altitude than the river for canal system,” said the keynote speaker of the occasion.

He said although due to salt accumulation the crop yield could be as low as 50 percent, however to avoid this situation greenhouse based agriculture could be adopted through drip irrigation. The greenhouse would be covered with fiber or plastic, water would evaporate leaving high salination on ground then the water would start dripping over the crops.

The engineer said that there was a high risk posing threat which was Thar coal. Underground Coal Gasification (UCG) was literally the poison pill for the lives of Tharis. Once the water got contaminated it would never be able to be corrected.

Abbasi recommended three suggestions: create greenhouse pilot projects with treated or non-treated water, set up research facility for saline based agriculture and enact laws banning UCG in Thar.

Senior Director Pak Oasis Brig Masood Ahmed said Pak Oasis was running 83 water desalination plants through reverse osmosis technology since 2004 and had a plan to install 750 more small plants in Thar.

Dr Mohammed Afzal from Aqua Culture and Fisheries said that groundwater of Thar desert could be used for aquaculture. Tilapia, shrimp, Sea Bass and Milk Fish were the salt tolerant fish that could be used for fish farming in the area.

MNA Tharparkar Mir Munawwar Ail Talpur, who was the chief guest of the occasion, concluded that event and said that Thar was the most beautiful and fertile desert of the world with no comparison.

He said that the main problem of Tharis was poverty and Sindh government would do its best to finish poverty in the region.

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