Modern Salinity System Wanted



The President of the Federation of Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FPCCI), Irfan Iqbal Sheikh, said Pakistan needs to put in place an efficient, modern and futuristic salinization management system. In the Indus basin, for example, two million hectares of land have been affected by salinity.

“It is a matter of food security for our future generations,” he added in a statement.

“Although an agricultural country, Pakistan imports more than $10 billion worth of food annually. We must do everything to promote import substitution in food imports to reduce pressure on our foreign exchange reserves and protect the masses from international food price spikes,” he said.

Subsurface drainage is one of the most effective methods for reclaiming and rehabilitating saline and waterlogged farmland, he explained.

Sindh Abadgar Board (SAB) Senior Vice Chairman Mahmood Nawaz Shah told The Express Tribune that soil fertility is declining due to rising salinity levels.

Soil fertility needs to be improved in Pakistan. Saline agriculture should also be promoted and some salinity-resistant crops, trees and plants should be introduced, he said.

Another important way to prevent declining soil fertility is to use less water and add organic matter to soils, Nawaz said.

A Dutch company has successfully grown potatoes on saline soil in Pakistan. There should be more effort and ongoing research and development (R&D) on how this can be replicated.

The FPCCI leader argued that better groundwater management is vital for a healthy, food secure, economically vibrant and green Pakistan.

The Indus Basin Irrigation System in Pakistan is the largest artificial groundwater recharge system in the world. However, the current water management model does not reflect this, he added.

Nearly a quarter of farmland has been affected by salinity, said Agriculture Republic co-founder Aamer Hayat Bhandara. People offer solutions such as gypsum and animal manure, although an organized effort is needed from authorities and farmers.

Salinization is a global phenomenon found in both developed and developing countries. However, the water stress that countries experience when water supply cannot keep pace with demand is one of its most dangerous impacts.

Dr. Viqar Hussain, head of the Environment Standing Committee of the FPCCI, argued that Sindh also faces the problems of seawater intrusion and land degradation. Additionally, Pakistan is extracting 50 million acre-feet (MAF) of water from 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 7e2022.

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