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Bio-saline agriculture successfully demonstrated in Tharparkar.

HYDERABAD -- Two pilot projects in Tharparkar on underground saline water have successfully harvested crops of Cotton, Millet, Guwar (Cluster Beans), Okra, Meha (Apple Gourd), Watermelon, Melon, fodders Jantar and Baroo, Moth, and Mong.

After launching of a pilot projects six months ago with the help of local farmers by Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) and a project with Karachi University's halophyte institute have successfully grown halophytic fodder and grabbed the first harvest, Shamsuddin Ahmed Shaikh the Chief Executive Officer SECMC informed here on Wednesday adding that fodder has been given to animals on trials and has proved to be taken as regular grass.

The Chinese Academy of Sciences' Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and Geography (China), Karachi University's Institute of Sustainable Halophyte Utilization, and Sindh Agriculture University, Tando Jam have joined hands with SECMC with a sole purpose to utilize the underground water, which has 5000-6000 TDS, for bio-saline agriculture.

He informed that bio-saline project is looked after closely by the seniors in all the collaborating partners, including he himself as well as Prof. Dr. Mohammad Ajmal Khan, Vice Chancellor Karachi University and Prof. Dr. Mujeeb Sehrai, Vice Chancellor Sindh Agriculture University Tando Jam.

Realizing the importance of water in the Tharparkar background, the experts have taken some initiative to best utilize the underground saline water. With the mining operations in full swing by SECMC at Thar Block II, the company is also dewatering the underground seams of water above and below the coal seams, he informed and added that dewatering process continues round the clock and is necessary to make the coal seam dry and, thus, exploitable.

The SECMC has dug 27 drilling wells around the mine to extract water, each having the de-watering capacity of 1.5 cusec to 2 cusec. The water is then disposed into the Gorrano reservoir about 27kms from the mine area, he said.

He said, 'with the further success of this project and validation by top research institute, we will witness a paradigm shift in how people grow crops in Tharparkar region. The scope of the agriculture on brackish water will be further expanded soon.'

'The bio-saline agriculture is a reality and the scientific advancements have made it possible to do agriculture in the water-starved areas like Tharparkar. Luckily, we have huge quantity of water available in the 2nd and 3rd aquifers which can revolutionize the agriculture sector in the region,' he added.

Giving the details of the fodder crops in Thar Block II, Prof. Dr. Mohammad Ajmal Khan of Karachi University informed, 'We started growing Panicum fodder or grass at the end of June this year and last month (November) we have been able to take its first harvest successfully. We are planning to grow it on an area of one acre, initially.'

'The fodder, in all of its properties, is like maize: the difference being that you can take only two crops per year whereas you can take 14 to 15 yearly crops of our fodder. The per-hectare production is also impressive at 60Kgs. Backed by all the tests that we have conducted on Panicum fodder, we are confident that it's a good quality fodder which can be grown with brackish water,' he said.

A staunch supporter of the bio-saline agriculture in Tharparkar, Prof. Dr. Mujeeb Sehrai, Vice Chancellor, Sindh Agriculture University informed that the bio-saline agriculture 'might cause a reverse cycle of migration: that people of other parts of the province may come to Tharparkar for economic activities instead of the opposite.

He said, 'Sindh Agriculture University, Thar Foundation, Karachi University, and Chinese Academy of Sciences together can do much for the Tharparkar region's agriculture sector.' 'Sindh and specifically Thar had no other choice but to opt for biosaline agriculture,' Dr. Sehrai asserted.
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Publication:The Frontier Star (Northwest Frontier Province, Pakistan)
Date:Nov 23, 2017
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