The issues surrounding water, energy, biodiversity, food and the climate crisis are global agenda items in all international summits, said University of Agriculture, Faisalabad (UAF) Vice Chancellor (VC) Dr Muhammad Ashraf.
He shared his views along with experts during a consultative session held at CAS Auditorium, UAF on food trends, challenges and sustainable strategies under the climate crisis. “China has grown maize in deserts with lesser amount of rainwater than we had witnessed in the Potohar region so we need to conduct similar experiments that can help grow wheat under the current weather conditions.”
The vice chancellor stressed the need of coordinated efforts to effectively address multi-centric issues of the water, energy and food security nexus in contrary to the growing population and depleting water and environmental resources. He was of the view that the lack of implementation on environmental regulations is of a paramount concern in the country as rampant malpractices in all fields, particularly agriculture, are causing irreparable damage.
He added that water conservation in Barani Areas is another frontier to be explored as during rainy season water needs to be stored at farm level by digging ponds with plastic surface so that stored water may not suffer seepage and be used during dry days.
The VC urged scientists to come out of the silos and work not only for earing impact factor but also to put an impact on society based on their innovative techniques to make human life easier.
Dr Riaz Hussain Qureshi said that although Pakistan has one of the largest irrigation systems in the world, it is also one of the most inefficient ones where more than 60% of the water is lost during conveyance in the channels and application in the field.
He added that out of 106 million acres feet (MAF) of water delivery at head, only 41 MAF was used in the field and the remaining water is lost due to poor irrigation methods and management system at canal to farm level.
He suggested introducing water pricing to arrest the growing trend of water wastage at domestic, industrial and agriculture level. He added that the country’s national water policy lacks research and stressed that it needs to be prioritised.
He expressed his reservations on having a large number of engineers in the national water council adding that agriculture professionals should be included instead.
USPCAS-AFS Climate Change Chair Dr Ashfaq Ahmad Chatha said that a rise in regional temperature and heatwaves is bringing changes in crop maturity and ultimately affecting our grain quality. He emphasized the need of putting adaptation strategies in place.
He added that in the previous century this region (present-day Pakistan) had 36 grains but today we are left with only three crops. “We need to have climate resilient crops so as to cope with the changing climatic conditions.”
Lead Pakistan National Program Director Dr Ali Touqeer Sheikh while talking about food security and the water crisis in Pakistan in the year 2047 said that by growing and exporting rice, water became the biggest export commodity through agriculture exports.
Punjab Team Leader of Action on Climate Ms Sumaira Samad said that we feel fascinated during rainfall in May and June but we do not understand it has a drastic impact on the quality of agricultural production.
She added that global heating is happening unpredictably so we need to prepare adapting strategies to meet with the challenges of the climate crisis.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 2nd, 2019.
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