Resource depletion and environmental degradation
have emerged as major problem facing agriculture. They are becoming
severe enough to threaten the long-term viability of farming and food
production. While new technologies are needed which are friendly to
the environment, we also need well designed policies which are
Agriculture is the backbone of Pakistan's economy
and one of the key engines of economic growth. The sector contributes
about 25 percent of GDP, employs nearly 50 percent of the rural labor
force, and is responsible, directly or indirectly, for over 60 percent
of exports. Around 80 percent of Pakistan's arable lands and 90
percent of agricultural output depends on irrigation.
Pakistan is endowed with an immense agricultural
resources base and agro-ecological diversity, which makes crop
production possible throughout the year. Pakistan is located in the
semi-arid and sub-tropics but is lucky enough to have a
proportionately better share of fresh water, yet it is a scarce and
precious commodity. Water of the Indus river and its tributaries is of
excellent quality, with total soluble salts (TSS) ranging between 60
to 375 ppm. Alluvial soils stretch over thousands of kilometers of the
Indus Basin plain. We have a rural population which is seeped in the
culture of farming since centuries. All these factors combine to make
Pakistan as an agricultural producer with one of the lowest costs of
Pakistan has 11 distinct climate zones and 10
agro-ecological zones ranging from mountainous, dry land and mangroves
comprising rich biodiversity.
KEY ISSUES IN THE MANAGEMENT OF AGRICULTURAL
RESOURCES AND ENVIRONMENT
Per capita water availability in Pakistan has been
decreasing, at an alarming rate. In 1951, the per capita availability
was 5300 cubic meter, which has now decreased to 1105 cubic meter just
touching water scarcity level of 1000 cubic meter. The annual flow in
the Indus Basin System on an average is 142 MAF. The irrigation
network in Pakistan diverts 106 MAF. This system results in huge
delivery losses both in canals and in water courses. The net water
supply at farm gate on an average is 62 MAF. Water is a limiting
factor and is used inefficiently as only 30 percent of the water
diverted from river system actually reaches the crops. Pakistan
exploits about 48 MAF from the sweet subsurface aquifer. This is at a
huge cost in the shape of investments in energy, adding up to the cost
of production. This increase in cost of production of crops is not
generally compensated properly through increase in output returns;
this makes the growing of crops under such irrigation scheme, a
fragile and marginalized farming practice. Existing uses of available
water include agriculture 93 percent, industry 3 percent and
households 4 percent. The current situation is that Pakistan has
suffered from a prolonged drought over past 45 years.
Almost all fresh water resources are severely
polluted due to discharge of untreated industrial and municipal
wastes. Pollution of coastal waters is due to waste discharge, oil
spill. Marine resources of the coastal areas are under threat due to
mangrove cutting and unplanned urban development.
Air pollution is on rise, especially in urban
areas. Recent surveys conducted by Pakistan Environmental Protection
Agency revealed presence of very high levels of suspended particle
matter (about 6 times higher than World Health Organization's
guidelines). In severely affected areas the vegetation has been
totally wiped out from the growing areas. Energy sector accounting for
81 percent CO2 emissions, industrial processes account for 12 percent,
81 percent of oxides of nitrogen emission comes from agriculture
sector. Climate change is expected to have significant impacts on
agriculture. Smog also seriously affects almost entire Punjab. During
December and January every year.
The geographic area of Pakistan is 79.61 million
hectares. The cultivated area is 22.27 million hectares. Out of this
15.67 million is irrigated and the rest is depended upon rain. The
area under forest is 3.8 million hectares, and under rangeland is
about 52 million hectares.
As in the country, productive agricultural areas
are showing a decline in productivity in many areas. Higher levels of
inputs are needed to obtain the same yields. The major limitations are
removal of nutrients, salinization, and alkalization, destruction of
soil structure, accelerated wind and water erosion and loss of organic
matter. A combination of these results in such degradation that the
term "desertification" is popularly used. In Pakistan
desertification affects over 43 million hectares of land annually.
The deforestation rate has been estimated at
0.2-0.5 percent per annum. Forest cover, which was 4.8 percent of
total land area in 1992, could hardly be increased substantially
despite all efforts. Degradation and encroachment of natural forests,
rangelands and fresh water and marine ecosystems are resulting in loss
of biodiversity. At least four mammal species, including tiger, swamp
deer, lion and Indian one-horned rhinoceros, are known to have become
extinct from Pakistan. While at least 10 ecosystems of particular
value for the species richness and uniqueness of their floral and
faunal communities are considered to be critically threatened.
Cotton is the lifeline of Pakistan's economy. The
most important is devastating attack of cotton leaf curl virus in
early nineties that at one time appeared to threaten the future of
textile sector in Pakistan. Our scientist through untiring efforts
discovered resistant genes that helped to save the agricultural
economy. During the middle of nineties decade, very heavy insect
pressure was encountered in cotton especially the American Boll Worm
and Army worm inflicted heavy losses in the economy. Broad genetic
base is very important from the point of view of resistance against
virus and disease and adaptability in various agro-environments. In
majority of cotton varieties NIAB-78 or its derivatives and/or S-12
(highly susceptible variety to cotton Leaf Curl Virus). Recently
cotton leaf curl virus has again emerged as a key disease in Punjab in
general and Burewala area in particular. This is dangerous version and
could develop into a serious problem.
Pesticides were introduced in 1954 in Pakistan. The
dependency on pesticide is evident from increasing trend in its
consumption from 665 tonnes in 1980 to 47,592 tonnes in 2001. In
Pakistan, among various crops, cotton is recognized as sink of
agro-chemicals. For example 63 percent pesticides are only used to
control pests in the country, followed by 19 percent on rice,
sugarcane, fruits and vegetables. This high dependence on pesticides
has disturbed agro-ecosystems, increased health hazards and polluted
environment. In the country nearly 50 percent of pesticides used are
either extremely hazardous or highly hazardous. Studies show that more
than 2 million women get sick annually from exposure to pesticides
during cotton picking.
In fertilizers, nitrogen use showed the increasing
trend from 1, 471.63 thousand N tonnes in 1990-91 to 2,349.11 N tonnes
in 2002-03. Phosphorous also showed the increasing trend, from 388.50
thousand N tonnes in 1990-91 to 650.17 thousand N tonnes in 2002-03.
However potassium showed decreasing trend from 32.75 thousand N tonnes
in 1990-91 to 20.49 thousand N tonnes in 2002-03.
Taxation in Agriculture: Pakistan has a
long history of taxing agriculture. All taxes in agriculture are
provincial taxes and are collected through the provincial system.
Water Rate: The water rates in provinces
vary from crop to crop and are collected on six monthly bases. For
instance in Punjab for Rabi Rs50 per acre and for Kharif Rs85 per acre
and for garden Rs250 per acre.
Agricultural Income Tax: In Pakistan
agricultural income tax has been imposed from 2002. Income tax is
applicable to holdings above 12.5 acre.
General Sales Taxes (GST): GST is imposed
at the rate of 15 percent on inputs like fertilizers and pesticides.
Agricultural Subsidies: Agricultural
subsidies have a long history of its evolution in Pakistan.
Fertilizers: Subsidies on fertilizers were
with drawn gradually- nitrogen fertilizers in 1984-85 and phosphate
and potash in 1989-90. However, due to high cost of fertilizers the
Government has given relief of Rs30 to 40 per bag of DAP. This is also
applicable to other phosphatic fertilizers.
Tube Wells, Plant protection and Seeds:
Agricultural subsidies given on such items were explicit subsidies and
eliminated totally by 1994-95.
Irrigation Water: Irrigation water
witnessed almost all implicit subsidies by the Government and shared
about 60 percent of the total implicit subsidy in various years.
Agricultural Credit: Institutional credit
is mainly distributed by Zari Taraqiati Bank and stood second by its
volume in the total amount of implicit subsidies extended by the
Government over time. For agriculture credit mark up is 9 percent for
production loan and 11 percent for development loans.
Electricity: Electricity occupies an
important place in the implicit subsidies and ranked almost third in
the total volume of subsidies, that comes under this category. At
national level subsidy on electricity was provided up to 1994-95 and
in subsequent years it was withdrawn at country level. However, it was
continued in Balochistan for agricultural tube wells at flat rate.
However, due to severe water shortage, it has increased pressure on
exploitation of sub surface water resulting in increasing the cost of
production. Government is conscious of the situation and has provided
a relief of 33 percent for Kharif crops.
Export Subsidies: Pakistan has limited
choice to provide, because in the base year 1986-90, Pakistan neither
provided nor notified any export subsidy. However, by using a
provision of export subsidy in AOA, the Government has announced
Rs350/tonne export subsidy on export of wheat.
Subsidy on Freight: The Government has
allowed 25 percent freight subsidy on export of fruits and vegetables.
Support Prices: Initially eight crops were
included in the support price net. However, due to donor pressure
Pakistan had to cut its support price to four main crops wheat,
cotton, rice and sugar cane. In future the support prices will be
renamed as rescue prices. Pakistan current total Aggregate Measure
Support is negative which is $-218 million. It means Pakistan has a
big cushion to provide domestic support of $ 218 million first to
reach a positive sign then it can go up to 2.6 percent GDP.
Trade Policy: The private sector has given
a lead role primarily based on market economy. The role of public
sector has been confined to minimal only for wheat crop, which is the
basis of Pakistan's food security or to address some of the
distressing situation. Measures have been taken allowing free export
and import of all commodities in agriculture sector. The only
exception to this is the import of cotton seed. Pakistan has already
suffered a loss of $ 1.1 billion through cotton virus. These policies
are in consistent with WTO regime.
INTEGRATING AGRICULTURAL AND ENVIRONMENTAL POLICIES
Ministry of Environment, Government of Pakistan has
prepared a draft of national environment policy 2005-15 and has
integrated agricultural resources and environment. The policy has
identified the following issues for intervention.
Agriculture and Livestock: To achieve
sustainable agricultural and livestock development the government
* Promote organic farming.
* Launch programs and projects to prevent soil
degradation and to restore and improve degraded lands.
* Promote integrated pest management and safe use
of insecticide, pesticides, weedicide, fungicide and herbicide.
* Develop strategies and programs to tackle
desertification in line with the National Action Program to Combat
Desertification and Drought.
* Establish National Desertification Control Fund.
* Encourage ecologically compatible cropping
* Enhance existing livestock production through
development of new technologies, scientific methods of farming and
improved management interventions.
* Promote recycling of agricultural products
associated with livestock production, and use of livestock sector as
an outlet for recycling of appropriate urban wastes.
* Encourage high productivity of livestock breeds.
Forestry and Plantations: To ensure
sustainable management of natural forests of Pakistan and increased
tree cover for safeguarding economic growth and food security in the
country, the government shall:
* Finalize the national Forestry Policy.
* Carryout intensive institutional and legal
reforms both at the federal and provincial levels to promote good
* Promote social forestry and integrated watershed
* Promote farm forestry and irrigated plantations.
* Eliminate all sorts of import duties on timber
products while taking into account the environmental sensitivities of
the neighboring Afghanistan.
* Develop and sustainably manage the riverine
forests along with irrigated plantation and tree plantation on farm
* Develop and implement a strategy and an action
plan for protection and rehabilitation of mangrove forests with
participation of communities.
* Preserve unique forests eco-systems and the
cultural heritage of people of Pakistan.
* Provide alternative sources of energy, like piped
natural gas, LPG, solar energy and micro-hydel power stations, to the
local inhabitants to reduce the pressure on natural forests, and to
substitute firewood in the upland ecosystems.
* Strengthen the existing forestry research and
training institutions with adequate infrastructure and technical
* Promote sustainable management of rangelands and
pastures through preparation and implementation of integrated range
Biodiversity and Protected Areas:
* Ensure effective implementation of Biodiversity
* Revise and update the Biodiversity Action Plan in
line with developments taking place at the national and international
* Develop and implement protected areas system plan
for in-situ conservation of biodiversity with community involvement.
* Encourage involvement of local communities in
conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity through provision of
incentives and responsibilities.
* Prepare a national strategy and action plan for
combating spread of invasive species.
* Finalize biosafety rules and guidelines and adopt
necessary bisafety related legal framework.
* Establish a National Institute of Biodiversity
and Ecosystem Sciences at federal level with the objective of
enhancing training and research capabilities to the fields of
biodiversity conservation and ecosystem management.
* Promote ex-situ conservation of biodiversity
through establishment of botanical gardens, gene banks, zoos and
captive breeding of animals and plants.
* Develop policy and regulatory framework for
conservation, cultivation and marketing of wild herbal resources.
* Promote eco-tourism concept and practices.
The following key instruments shall be employed for
implementation of the policy:
(I) Integration of environment into development
(II) Legislation and regulatory framework;
(III) Capacity development;
(IV) Economic and market based instruments;
(V) Public awareness and education; and
(VI) Public-private partnership
Economic and Market Based Instruments
* Environmental fiscal reforms shall be promoted
* Trade barriers for the import of clean
technologies, fuels, and pollution control equipment shall be removed.
* Incentives including reduced tariffs, tax
reduction and other incentives (such as environment and energy award)
shall be offered to private and public sector for compliance with
environmental laws and standards.
* Sustainable development funds shall be
operationalized at the federal and provincial levels.
* Industries shall be encouraged to introduce
environmental accounting systems in their financial management
* Special credits/low interest loans/subsidies
shall be offered for establishment of waste management system,
introduction of clean technology and relocation of polluting
* Green labeling shall be introduced through
launching Pakistan Green Seal program.
* Opportunities for green business such as
environmental engineering manufacturing and installations,
environmentally-certified products and businesses, energy service and
conservation companies, and ecotourism shall be promoted.
Resource depletion and environmental degradation
have emerged as major problems facing agriculture. They are becoming
severe enough to threaten the log-term viability of farming and food
production. While new technologies are needed which are friendly to
the environment, we also need well-designed policies which are
implemented effectively. The research and development can produce
technologies to enhance environmental quality and resource
conservation, but may not be enough to ensure that they are actually
used. To change these situation farmers must be given new kinds of
incentives The incentives which are available include taxes on farm
inputs, price supports for goods produced by selected agricultural
techniques and income supports paid to farmers who carry out
conversation practices. Another possibility is that farmers should be
made to pay for any environmental damage they cause, such as pollution
or depletion of ground water. Most governments tend to prefer direct
controls. However, monitoring and enforcement are difficult and
In Pakistan subsidies on nitrogenous fertilizers
were with drawn in 1984-85 and phosphate and potash in 1989-90. GST
was also imposed at the rate of 15 percent. This policy does not help
in reducing the use of nitrogenous or phosphatic fertilizer except
potash. Similarly a subsidy given on plant protection was removed in
1994-95 and GST was also imposed, but the use of pesticide is on rise.
In Pakistan there are wide variations in
productivity of crops at the farm of progressive growers and
subsistent growers. The subsistent farmers cannot purchase costly
inputs and they are organic by default. These farmers need support in
organic certification, marketing, biofertilizers, biopesticides to
practice organic farming.
The water resources development agenda may be that
one-half of the increase in the demand for water by 2025 should be met
by increasing in effectiveness of irrigation, while the remaining
water needs should be met by dams and conjunctive use of aquifers. For
effectiveness of irrigation lining of canals, water courses and
construction of storage dams at farm level is needed. For introduction
of efficient irrigation like sprinkler, drip, trickle systems farmers
need financial support.
The use of information technology for agricultural
resources management is gaining interest. It makes agriculture
management less tedious and costly, by collecting a wide spectrum of
data on a much shorter span of time. Precision agriculture, GIS-based
mapping and modeling of soil erosion-using satellites to monitor
change in land use. The use of Internet has made agriculture as
knowledge based industry. Farmers need assistance to use information
For development of eco-tourism, program is needed
to provide low interest loans to farmers, to help them improve their
accommodation facilities for tourists.
For introduction of genetically modified crops,
farmers need assistance for purchasing the costly seed.
The Asian Development Bank has estimated that one
third of the agricultural land become degraded over the past 30 years.
It has also pointed out that low income rather than population growth
is the major underlying cause of land degradation.
The author is from Agronomy Department University
of Agriculture Faisalabad: E-mail: email@example.com