July 18 - 24, 20

Pakistan may face drastic famine in future as irrigation lands are being reduced due to shortage of water, while the population growth rate is amongst highest in the world.

Climate change is drastically damaging the crops in the country; conversely, after the green revolution in 1960s there has been no remarkable effort made by the world in this regard except opening of biotechnology.

Agro-biotechnology can play an important role in the agriculture development of the country. Products of agriculture biotechnology, especially the disease resistance crops, high yielding varieties, and new varieties with essential nutrients can fulfill our present and future needs.

Experts told PAGE that not only in Pakistan but also in other countries of the world, biotechnology could play pivotal role to control the food crises, as it had great potential to enhance food production by 5 to 6 per cent.

According to them, the greatest challenge is to develop the educated workforce, required infrastructure and to devise right policies where these new agro-biotechnology discoveries can make there way to the farmers fields and benefit the farmers and the nations. The growing population of the country requires a careful planning to overcome the needs of the increasing population.

They said one of the most important human's needs is food which comes from the agriculture sector but unfortunately the high price agriculture inputs like seeds, fertilizers, pesticides etc, lack of good quality seeds, deficiency of water and the lack of advancement are the major reasons for the low yield of many crops in Pakistan. The proper use of biotechnology can increase food production, lower food prices and improve food quality, they added.

They called for taking benefits from biotechnology, which helps producing genetically modified (GM) crops. Just a few decades ago, Pakistan was considered to have a profusion of quality water, but a recent World Bank's report declared that Pakistan is among the 17 countries that are currently facing water shortage, they said.

Pakistan is facing severe shortage of water. There are two main reasons: one is drought, which is beyond the control of a man, and the other is gross negligence in the development and mismanagement of water resources. The average annual inflow of the Indus and its tributaries is 141.67 MAF, of which 97 per cent is used in agriculture and the remaining three per cent for domestic and industrial purposes.

Out of 141.67 MAF, around 106 MAF is annually diverted in to one of the largest but inefficient irrigation system. The remaining 36 MAF goes into the sea unused - a total loss.

Out of 106 MAF, diverted into an extensive irrigation network, more than 50 per cent is lost during the changeling and the field application before it reaches the crop root zone.

With the country fast heading towards a water-deficient status, experts emphasized the need to educate the public about natural water shortages and efficient management of available water both for household and irrigation purposes.

They believe that awareness of end-users (of water) is critical at the moment since they have to face the fallout. At the same time, an integrated and sustainable approach at the institutional level is required to efficiently manage available water resources to cope with future challenges.

At present, Pakistan is classed as a "water-stressed" nation, having about 1,200 cubic metres per capita water availability for a population of almost 150 million. However, according to water experts that figure could slip below the water-deficient level of below 1,000 cubic metres per capita per year if the current situation prevails.

Demands on Pakistan's water resources are multiple, ranging from drinking and sanitation to irrigating crops, manufacturing activities, or as a vital component of the country's ecosystem, experts adds.

"In a country with a high population growth expected to rise to 221 million by 2025, an integrated approach to water resources has never been more important," they said.

Pakistan's agricultural sector, which accounts for 93 percent of all water usage in the country, is under severe pressure due to natural water shortages, high population growth and inappropriate management of available water. "We have to introduce greater institutional efficiencies to manage water logging and salinity, reduced water storage capacity, over exploitation of groundwater and weak water management for irrigation purposes," they said.