Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI) President Irfan Iqbal Sheikh has said that Pakistan needs to have an effective, modern and futuristic salinisation management system in place. In the Indus Basin for instance, two million hectares of land has been affected by salinity.
“This is a matter of food security for our future generations,” he added in a statement.
“Despite being an agricultural country, Pakistan imports more than $10 billion worth of food products annually. We need to do everything to go for import substitution in food imports to reduce the strain on our foreign exchange reserves and protect the masses from spikes in international food commodities’ prices,” he said.
Tile drainage is one of the most effective methods of reclaiming and rehabilitating the saline and water-logged agricultural land, he explained.
Sindh Abadgar Board (SAB) Senior Vice President Mahmood Nawaz Shah told The Express Tribune that the fertility of soil is declining because of the increasing levels of salinity.
Soil fertility needs to be improved in Pakistan. Saline agriculture should also be encouraged and certain crops, trees and plants that are salinity resistant should be introduced, he said.
Another important method to prevent the declining soil fertility is to utilise less water and add organic matter to soils, Nawaz said.
A Dutch company did successfully produce potatoes on saline soil in Pakistan. There should be more efforts and continued research and development (R&D) as to how this can be replicated.
FPCCI chief maintained that enhanced groundwater management is vital for a healthy, food-secure, economically vibrant and green Pakistan.
Pakistan’s Indus Basin irrigation system is the biggest man-made groundwater recharge system in the world. However, the present water management model does not mirror it, he added.
Almost one-fourth of agricultural land has been affected by salinity, said Agriculture Republic Co-founder Aamer Hayat Bhandara. People are coming up with solutions such as gypsum and animal manure, although organised effort is needed from the authorities and farmers.
Salinisation is a worldwide phenomenon that can be found in developed countries and developing countries alike. However, the water stress experienced by countries when the supply of water cannot keep pace with demand is one of its most dangerous impacts.
FPCCI’s Standing Committee on Environment Convener Dr Viqar Hussain maintained that Sindh is also facing the issues of sea water intrusion and land degradation. Additionally, Pakistan is extracting 50 million acre feet (MAF) of water from the aquifers which is no longer sustainable.
He proposed the formulation of a national groundwater regulatory policy to address this issue.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 7th, 2022.