Underground saline water project for Thar

To overcome the drought phenomenon in Tharparkar, pilot project that will utilize underground saline water extracted from mining operations in Thar Block-II for bio-saline agriculture. 

Professor Dr. Ajmal Khan of National Institute of Sustainable Halophyte Utilization (ISHU), University of Karachi announces this during an international synergy seminar on sustainable utilization of saline resources. 

Vice Chancellor Karachi University, Prof Muhammad Qaiser and Chief Operating Officer of SECMC, Syed Abul Fazal Rizvi inked a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on behalf of ISHU and Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC), respectively. 

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 continues 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 that affects entire economy causing suffering and misery to the locals. 

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 protect Thari community against the negative impacts of drought by providing enough forage throughout the year,” he said. 

In a statement issued, COO of SECMC, Rizvi said that the pilot project would 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. 

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 said that this endeavour was one of those many efforts 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 was a welcome opportunity because it gave way for innovation and implementation for the sustainable utilization of halophytes. 

She said that together with executing the mega coal-mining project in Thar Block-II which is of national importance, this bio-saline agriculture project by SECMC was 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.