Locals are suffering due to lack of water in a desert spread over 100,000 acres in Noorpur Thal tehsil as they wait for the Greater Thal Canal project to complete.
While the sandy land of the water starved tehsil had been a source of a variety of produce, a plan for revitalisation of barren land was prepared 19 years ago.
Local farmers say the tehsil was capable of growing various types of crops and orchards in case of availability of water but the government has been ignoring the area, causing financial losses to the growers.
“As a result, local farmers are not only indebted to banks but many of them have been forced to sell their land at cheap rates to make ends meet,” a landowner said while speaking to The Express Tribune.
The Greater Thal Canal project was launched in 2001 to make the land of Thal cultivable. Then first phase was swiftly completed but the work on phase-II was stopped and has not resumed yet.
Experts have confirmed that nature has bestowed Nurpur Thal with soil capable of producing several crops, vegetables and fruits with the help of irrigation to meet the requirements of the district.
A local farmer has experimented with planting a vineyard, while another planted an olive grove in Thal that resulted in success.
Malik Abdul Majeed Wadhal, a local farmer, said that in the Thal desert he has planted a vineyard on six acres of land supported by the drip irrigation system run on solar power.
“The fruit of this vineyard is not only tasty but also ranks first in the Sargodha division due to its sweetness and taste,” he boasted.
Another farmer, Rana Mohammad Yameen, said that by using the same drip system, he has planted a blood oranges garden on five acres.
“The irrigation system draws power from solar energy and has helped us acquire ample produce,” Yameen pointed out.
“The blood oranges of this garden are so delicious that once you taste them, you will want to eat them again,” the fruit garden owner claimed.
The locals stated that if solar system is provided to the farmers of Thal on subsidy, the growers will be able to contribute substantially to the national economy through their market competitive produce which can be sold worldwide.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 29th, 2021.
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