Conserve floodwater to solve irrigation problems: experts

Experts say if floodwater in rivers is preserved, the country can meet its irrigation need,

Saba Channa September 16, 2010

HYDERABAD: The floods have done their damage but now there is a large amount of water flowing in the rivers and if it is preserved, the country can meet its irrigation need for many years to come, said Dr Ataur Rehman on Wednesday.

The former chairman of the Higher Education Commission was addressing the first of a three-day international conference on sustainable water management. The conference was arranged in collaboration with the British Council Pakistan and was inaugurated at the Mehran University of Engineering and Technology by Rehman

Dr Rehman said that supply of fresh water is a problem that is being faced not just by the third world countries but also by the developed world. He expressed the hope that the conference would help formulate plans and policies for water conservation. “It is essential that the plans [we make here] are implemented,” he added.

Pakistan is an agricultural country but it faces a shortage of irrigation water as well. Scientists and intellectuals have to come up with plans to conserve water and ensure that it is supplied to every area in the country.

“The main aim of the conference is to discuss supply of fresh water,” said the vice-chancellor of Mehran University, Dr Abdul Qadeer Rajput. “And for this purpose we have invited water experts and scientists from all over the world.”

Around 28 foreign delegates from 11 countries including the US, UK, Australia, Austria, Kenya, China, Nepal, India and Bangladesh took part in the conference.

Several scientists and water technologists delivered lectures via video conferencing. They included Dr Fayaz Memon, A Fidar and Abdi Butler from the UK.

Fidar discussed her paper on the recycling potential of grey water. Grey water is the waste from households, which is a lot less toxic than industrial waste. This water can be treated quite easily and reused. According to Fidar, grey water can be used in irrigation as well as for energy production.

Other speakers included Professor VP Singh from the US, Dr Markus Starkl from Australia and Dr Rajiv Sinha from India.

Singh suggested that advances in technology can be used to save water. Small reservoirs should be made all along rivers so that water can be stored. Wastage of water has to be controlled, he said. This can be done by using drip irrigation technology, which involves underground filtered pipes that prevent evaporation. The trickling method and lining of canals are also important in conserving water since linings help to prevent seepage, leakage as well as water logging and salinity, added Singh.

Meanwhile, SM Tariq discussed his case study on water efficiency in the agricultural sector while H Daniel talked about traditional water management systems and sustainable irrigation. Other papers included sustainable water management by using remote sensing and GIS modelling and water storage for sustainable agriculture in Sindh.

Talking to Express 24/7, specialist Dragica Veselinovic, who works with SIDA in Hyderabad, said, “I hope that such a concentration of knowledge and expertise from all over the world translates into practice, otherwise it will just be dry, empty academic knowledge.”

Nabeel Alvi of the British Council said that water is a global issue. According to him, the conference had been planned six months ago but its significance increased drastically after the floods in the country.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 16th, 2010.


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