Water logging and Salinity: A threat in the face of barrenness

The Annual cost of crop losses from the problem of water logging and salinity has been estimated between Rs 15bn and Rs 55bn

Currently, different areas in the world have face the issues of water logging and salinity but they are intensified due to number of factors including unsuitable pattern of cropping, floods and heavy rain falls and uncontrolled drainage.

Water Logging and salinity are the most devastating effects of the irrigation development. Though, both of them are entirely different problems but still they are discussed as twin problems with reference to Pakistan. As we know that Pakistan has alluvial soil means when less amount of water is given to the land all those salts that are present under the soil start gathering on the surface near the roots and if such land are not properly leached with the passage of time those lands will lose their fertility turning into barren lands.

According to the report published by the United Nations food organization out of total 20.8 m hectares cultivable land in Pakistan 1.55 m hectares are affected by water logging whereas 5.33 m hectares affect by salinity. We are losing our cultivable land at very fast rate especially in the areas of Punjab. It is very important to understand the concept of water logging and salinity. Basically, water logging represents the phenomena in which underground water comes to the surface and also gathers on the ground surface of the land. In water logged areas for plants very few spaces are present for air that’s means there is deficiency of oxygen

Whereas in case of salinity the ground water does not reach the desired level casing accumulation of land salts near the roots so in a nut shell one can say that both of these processes decreases the efficiency as well as productivity of cultivable lands. Let me say that all those areas that fall in Indus basin system like Faisalabad, Gujranwala and Jhang have been devastatingly affected by water logging and salinity. Pakistan has been its victim since many decades but it has drastically affected the farmers because of increasing in the percentage of uncultivable land causing major cuts in the incomes of farmers leading to small scale famines and poverty.  In this regard there is no significant role of provincial governments and due to their negligence and lack of planning the farmers are facing low quality production and no subsidies from the government side. Actually the problem of salinity is not natural its man made because of our method of irrigation. River water or canal water is widely used for irrigation that contains high amounts of salts and when the water evaporates large amount of salts remain behind causing salinity. I would like to share some suggestions in order to curb these menaces.

A question is always raised from the farmers side that how to overcome the grave problem of salinity? Simply the application of gypsum into affected lands and soil salinity control by salivation and reclaiming the affected lands. In order to curb water logging the most effective method is biological drainage in which role of trees, bushes and crops is of significance importance to control water logging. It is obvious that selection of crops in water logged areas is important like grain legumes and canola have more power of tolerance against the menace of water logging as compared to beans or cereals. Another question needs to be addressed that can we do anything to mitigate the effects of water logging before it happens? Yes this could be done by following methods increasing nitrogen level of crops before water logging even occurs.

On the other hand nitrogen fertilizers can also be applied at the end of water logging season but it should be done soon after seeding process. The Proper Lining of canals and closure for a temporary period of time is necessary so water will only be used when needed. Installing of tube wells in those areas where we have high underground water tables and plantation of eucalyptus trees in water logged areas. Eventually, both of these problems could be addressed in a proper way if the efficiency of irrigation system gets improved and more and more such crops are cultivated that needs less water in arid and semi arid regions. Moreover improving drainage system should also be prioritized as we receive massive rainfalls and floods during monsoons so incase of inappropriate drainage system the rain water will seep into the soil increasing the water table leading to water logging. If we don’t act soon in the coming next 5 to 10 years nearly half of the cultivable land of Pakistan will become victim of water logging and salinity. Nevertheless it is the responsibility of the government to create awareness among the masses regarding drainage, water logging and salinity and how to curb this menace.

Shahroz Ullah Badrana
Shahroz Ullah Badrana
Mphil Research Scholar (International Relations) at Quaid-e-Azam University, Islamabad