Fertile lands becoming saline at rate of 40,000 hectares annually: conference told

HYDERABAD: The soil of Sindh is salt-affected in nature with salty ground water requiring serious attention for reclamation and rehabilitation. Fertile lands of Pakistan are becoming saline at the rate of 40,000 hectares annually

This was the crux of a round table conference organized by Society for Environmental Actions, Reconstruction and Humanitarian response (SEARCH) Pakistan in collaboration with Global Soil Partnership at its head office here on Thursday to mark the World Soil Day.

Speaking at the ceremony, Waheed Jamali, Executive Director, SEARCH Pakistan said total land area of Sindh, which lies between 23 and 29 degrees north latitude and 67 and 71 degrees east longitude is 14.1 million hectares, represents 18% of total geographical area of Pakistan, which is 79.61 million hectares, out of which nearly 39 percent or 5.45 million hectares are cultivable.

He said that about 9.9 per cent is cultivable wastes and 0.57 million hectares or 4.8 per cent is under forestry. He said: “The remaining 8.65 million hectares or 44.2 percent is not available for cultivation. Again of the total cultivated areas of 5.45 million hectares, nearly 57 percent are current fallow, which is the highest in the country and reflects on the poor water availability, mismanagement and ill-practices of irrigation systems in the province. “

It is stated that out of the salt free, i.e. cultivated or cropped areas, which are 3.079 million hectares or 57%, about 2.321 million hectares (or 42%) are salt-affected, Jamali said.

Punhal Sario, land rights activist, said: The fertile lands of Pakistan are becoming saline at the rate of 40,000 hectares annually. “This shows that 109 hectares of our land is converting into saline daily. This situation is very alarming and particularly in Sindh province, because lands are becoming saline more in Sindh than the other provinces. The climate of Sindh is arid and hot. It has been observed with concern that since the last couple of decades, the cropped areas are declining in Sindh. “

Dr Ashothama, HRCP Hyderabad Coordinator, said: The soil needs management practices and fertilization. Addition of farm yard and green manures through legume crops is necessary to improve the soil conditions.

Taj Mari, leader of Bhandar Hari Sangat said: The use of prime agriculture land for non-agriculture purpose is one of the major problems. The unplanned expansion towns and industrial estates such as growing cities like Hyderabad, Mirpurkhas and Karachi are encroaching on good and very good agriculture lands. Mining of fertile topsoil for brick casting are reducing the agriculture potential of affected lands.

Sohial, a Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum representative, said: Optimal use of this resource would not only ensure continued availability of the basic human needs for food, fiber and shelter, but also improve overall environment.

Shafique Chandio, Secretary General, SEARCH-Pakistan asked authorities, experts and soil institutions to raise awareness for the soil and land use policy.

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