Drought phenomenon is going to be irrelevant in Tharparkar after successful completion of a pilot project that will utilize underground saline water extracted from mining operations in Thar Block-II for bio-saline agriculture. This was revealed by eminent national professor Dr. Ajmal Khan of National Institute of Sustainable Halophyte Utilization (ISHU), University of Karachi during an international synergy seminar on sustainable utilization of saline resources, which was followed by a signing of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC) and ISHU. Vice Chancellor Karachi University, Prof Muhammad Qaiser and Chief Operating Officer of SECMC, Syed Abul Fazal Rizvi signed the MoU.
The innovative project in Tharparkar is aimed at reducing dependency on rain water for growing fodder as it will seek to utilize salt resistant grass for non-conventional fodder. After successful completion, SECMC plans to scale up the project which will benefit the people of Tharparkar multifold through the production of fodder crops irrespective of seasonal limitations brought on by recurring drought cycles.
Tharparkar district is ranked as one of the lowest in Sindh on Human Development Indices (HDI) and dependence on traditional but inconsistent means of income generation such as rain dependent agriculture and livestock rearing – its economic landscape has continued to suffer. As is common in the region, there are frequent drought cycles which hinder the few means of livelihood which are solely rain dependent, when drought hits the region, a domino effect takes place whereby the entire economy gets affected causing suffering and misery to the locals.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr. Ajmal said that aligned with the Institute’s vision, domesticating various halophytes to serve as a source of fodder, forage, bio fuel, oil seeds, medicinal plants and other possible usage by utilizing brackish water in Thar will reduce pressure on fertile lands and sweet water resources.
“Successful implementation of this project will make effect of regular droughts on the Thari community irrelevant by providing enough forage throughout the year,” he added.
In a statement issued here on Monday, COO of SECMC, Mr. Rizvi said that said that the pilot project will take one year to complete and will be scaled-up in a phase-wise approach over the next few years.
“Sustainability of the project shall be ensured by on-site training of local farmers and availability of a larger seed bank through which market linkages and avenues for commercialization amongst the local populace can be enhanced,” he said. Mr. Rizvi was of the view that this can be a game-changer for the rural community in Tharparkar who are solely dependent on traditional means of income generation with no other prospects in sight. He further added that this endeavor was one of many which are part of the Company’s vision to bring prosperity to the local Thari people.
Professor Bilquees Gul, Head of ISHU, said that a positive collaboration between the academia and the corporate sector is a welcome opportunity because it gives way for innovation and implementation for the sustainable utilization of halophytes.
Together with executing the mega coal mining project in Thar Block-II which is of National importance, Prof. Bilquees added that this bio-saline agriculture project by SECMC is a vital social and moral obligation of the Company to take care of the communities in the largely under privileged region of Tharparkar. SECMC, through its coal mining project has taken the responsibility to uplift the communities in its midst by improving the socio-economic conditions and providing them with multiple means of livelihood to ensure the Thari people are not affected by natural calamities such as the recurring droughts.