Thar desert can be made lush green with saline water’
KARACHI – Thar Desert can easily be converted into lush green grassland if it is irrigated with saline water, say researchers.
According to details, researchers at Institute of Sustainable Halophyte Utilization, University of Karachi have successfully developed a cropping system that can turn barren saline lands into sustainable croplands mainly for animal fodder and other important by-products like medicines and bio-fuels.
The fodder grass is a perennial sown once and can be continually harvested to about 63,000 kg per hectare per year without reseeding. ISHU inked a MoU with SECMC, for developing model cash crop cultivation farms in Thar Desert to grow green fodder on experimental basis.
Utilising brackish water in Thar will reduce pressure on fertile lands and sweet water resources. The crops were being watered by underground saline water pumped from a level of 180 metres from the pen-pit coal mine. Plantation of the fodder plant has been successfully started near Green Park at Thar Block II.
Thar is the largest desert of Pakistan and 9th Largest Desert Of the world. It is situated in the province of Sindh. The Thar area has a tropical desert climate. The rains play a vital role in the life of all parts of Thar because the underground water is rarely found in Thar desert. Most of the underground water is saline and undrinkable sometimes sweet water comes out of a very deeply dug well.
Director ISHU Prof Dr Bilquees Gul said that this bio-saline agriculture project with SECMC will play a vital role to take care of the local communities of Tharparker and nearby areas. She added that beyond traditional horticulture and agriculture, halophytes – salt-loving plant species – are cultivated in saltwater. These hardy plants, often already well adapted to desert conditions, are highly promising sources of fodder and bio energy feed stocks that can thrive in highly saline environments.
ISHU, KU team has been offered a land, near Green Park at Thar Block II. SECMC team shall provide water, land levelling tools, equipment shed and other items to start formal growing plants, she added.
Director ISHU said that proposed species of fodder can survive in local climate conditions. We have made significant progress in research on this subject and believe that if properly implemented, it could contribute significantly in rehabilitating saline land and providing fodder to arid areas like Thar have plenty of saline water resources.
The communities along the Tharparker are extremely poor and the introduction of this grass in that area would provide an economic uplift to local communities, she said. Tests on animals have shown no harmful effects and there was no problem convincing people to use it as fodder,” she said, adding that good management was required to grow the grass, which was probably the best fodder grass for the sub-tropical regions of the world as it can grow from coastal regions to inland regions. Vice Chancellor Prof Dr Muhammad Ajmal Khan has congratulated the researchers of ISHU for the research and said that the communities along the Tharparker are extremely poor and the introduction of this grass in that area would provide an economic uplift to local communities.