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Salvaging saline land




  • SINDH may be in for serious trouble because of continuous degradation of its soil due to salinity and alkalinity particularly in rice and sugarcane growing districts.

    According to official figures, about 1.126 million hectares were severely affected by salts in 1992 and since then more cultivable lands have suffered loss of productivity.

    SINDH may be in for serious trouble because of continuous degradation of its soil due to salinity and alkalinity particularly in rice and sugarcane growing districts.

    According to official figures, about 1.126 million hectares were severely affected by salts in 1992 and since then more cultivable lands have suffered loss of productivity.

    Soil experts stress the need for a province-wide comprehensive survey to have the latest data to work on an effective plan to tackle the menace. As per 1992 provincial report, cane and paddy growing districts were worst affected by salinity.

    Farm experts point out that excess water given to paddy and cane crops brings all salts on the soil surface. If only required quantity of water is given to these crops and saline lands are treated, per acre yield can increase considerably. And lands, rendered uncultivable, can also be brought under plough

    Experts say if the agriculture economy of the province is to be put on a strong footing, and poverty is to be reduced, salt-affected soils should be salvaged on a priority basis.

    While the Sindh government does recognise the gravity of the problem, it has for one reason or the other not been able to put an action plan together so far.

    In 2009, Sindh Agriculture Department prepared a project titled “Reclamation and Management of Salt Affected Soils” and allocated an amount of Rs50 million in the budget 2009-10. But, this project could not be implemented during that fiscal year and afterwards a similar amount was earmarked in provincial ADP 2010-2011. The amount could not be utilised due to an extraordinary financial crunch faced by the province, owing to devastation by unprecedented floods. However, senior officials assured that the provincial government was serious to implement this project in the year 2011-12.

    A seven-member high level committee formed to plan, implement and review the project as per PC-I has already been approved. Its members are: Director General, Agriculture Research, Sindh ( Chairman), and one representative each from Chamber of Agriculture and Sindh Abadgar Board, project incharge/ director (ARI), Chairman, Soil Science Department, Agriculture University, Tando Jam, and head of soil sciences division, NIA, Tando Jam, as its members while the deputy director (Tech-II) from DG office would act as member-secretary.

    The plan objectives are: reclamation and management of saline soils; research on salt affected soils and saltish/ brackish water; study on safe utilisation of saline/alkaline water; research on reclamation of salt affected soils, through chemical, biological or integrated approach with advanced technologies; to collect seed of salt tolerant plants, tress and grasses, and to conduct research to check their tolerance, and to disseminate developed technologies through trials on farmers` fields.

    About 9000 acres would be treated under this project for three seasons, starting from in four districts during first year, 4+5= 09 districts over second year and in five districts in third year. The project would work as participatory research with growers at the farms.

    There would be at least 160 trials at each district (100 trials of four acres each and 60 trials of 10 acres each).

    The modus operandi of the project are: (a) priority would be given to districts having more salinity, (b) trials will be held in the range from 04 to 10 acres, (c) expenditure to be incurred on providing gypsum, humic acid, sulphuric acid/ sulphur, and ammonium sulphate would be shared on 50 /50 basis by growers and the provincial government. Technical services would also be provided toe farmers.

    Labour, tractor, water availability, fertiliser, manure, pesticides, POL, seed, and facility for research and other technical staff at the field would be the responsibility of the grower.

    Courtesy: Dawn News

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