KARACHI: A centre to conduct research on rice was inaugurated at the International Centre for Chemical and Biological Sciences (ICCIC), Karachi University (KU) on Wednesday.
The Sino-Pakistan Hybrid Rice Research Centre at KU was to be inaugurated by Governor Mohammad Zubair. However, the governor could not make it to the ceremony and the inauguration was performed by KU Vice-Chancellor (VC) Prof Dr Muhammad Ajmal Khan.
The research centre, which is first of its kind in Pakistan, has been set-up at a cost of Rs150 million in the premises of the ICCBS. The centre has state-of-the-art research facilities, including NMR spectroscopes, plant tissue culture technology, genomics and greenhouses.
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The ceremony was attended by ICCBS Patron-in-Chief Prof Dr Attaur Rahman, Consul-General of China in Karachi Wang Yu, China National Rice Research Institute (CNRRI) of Hangzhou Director-General Prof Dr Cheng Shihua and ICCBS Director Prof Dr Muhammad Iqbal Choudhary.
Speaking at the inaugural ceremony, the VC said Pakistan needed to make long-term investments in science and technology to attain sustainable progress. Giving the example of China, Dr Khan added that China made an astonishing progress in a limited time due to its focus on science and technology.
Speaking on the occasion, Dr Rahman said Pakistan has 100 million people below the age of 20 who need to be educated and trained. He pointed out that in the current era, quality human resource and technological innovation rank higher than natural resources in their potential to bring industrial development.
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Speaking about the drastic cut in the budget for higher education in the last few years, Dr Rahman said the finance ministry has slashed the development budget of all universities of Pakistan by more than 60%. The government has left the varsities in a shocking state of disarray by reducing their funds, the scientist remarked.
For any country there are four pillars of progress, Dr Rahman said. These pillars include high quality education, science and technology, innovation and entrepreneurship, and the vision and strategy of leadership, he explained.
The Chinese consul-general said Pakistan is famous for its high quality rice and China has been a regular importer of Pakistani rice. Commenting on the new research centre, he said ICCBS owns highly qualified scholars and state-of-the-art research equipment. The opening of the research centre was a very significant event, which shows the deep roots of Pak-China bilateral relations, he said.
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Prof Choudhary informed the gathering that the centre will work on the development of novel varieties of rice by using state-of-the-art hybrid and genetic technologies. Pakistan was among the largest producers of rice in the world. However, despite the tremendous potential of rice cultivation in the country, the export of Pakistani rice has decreased over the years due to low yields, and high cost of production, the ICCBS director added.
"The biggest challenge is to increase the production of high quality rice for the local and foreign market. Through this new centre, the ICCBS and CNRRI intend to contribute in this field of strategic importance," Dr Chaudhary said.
"Pakistan [has been] an important strategic partner of China. The two countries [have been maintaining] friendship for the past 50 years," said Prof Shihua, adding that food security is a common issue for both the countries. Pakistan's local rice varieties possess exceptional grain size, taste and aroma, he remarked. With the help of advanced technology of China, Pakistan can develop more varieties of rice, he said.