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HYDERABAD: Tharp-arkar, once a desolate land and depending on infrequent seasonal rains resulting in regular droughts and migrations, has emerged as the land of opportunities and a great source of livelihoods and enormous business prospects.

Recently, two pilot projects in Thar have demonstrated successful desert fish farming and bio-saline agriculture projects and yielded commercially viable productions.

These successful pilot projects are an outcome of the dewatering process taking place in Thar Coal Block II of Taluka Islamkot of District Tharparkar by Sindh Engro Coal Mining Company (SECMC).

“While carrying out hydrogeological studies for Thar coal project, we found out abundant water reserves of groundwater at the depth of 450 plus feet in the whole of the desert region,” said Syed Abul Fazal Rizvi, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of SECMC and Thar Foundation.

Speaking exclusively to Business Recorder, Rizvi said our studies suggest the availability of 80 billion cubic feet of water underneath coal, TDS level quality of which ranges between 5000-7000 PPM.

The available water in Thar has the potential to irrigate thousands of acres of land by applying modern watering methods such as drip and sprinkler systems, he added.

He said in collaboration with Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC) and Institute of Sustainable Halophyte Utilization of Karachi University, we have produced commercially viable production of Apple Ber, Rhodes Grass, Castor Oil, Cluster Bean, and vegetables.

Utilizing the underground saline water, Thar Foundation has piloted a 40 Acres land to grow fruits, vegetables, and local grass species and established Sindh’s largest private sector nursery which nurtures 500,000 saplings at a time. It has also set up a 68-acre Green Park which has grown local species of trees that comprises Neem, Babur, Roheero, Kandi, Moringa, and other species.

Umair Aslam Butt, Manager Health, Safety and Environment (HSE) of SECMC said that they have also planted 860,000 trees of mostly local species under the Thar Million Tree campaign by utilizing Biosaline water.

“This is not merely a campaign to plant one million trees but a vision to make greener Thar by collaboration with various entities including Sindh Forest Department, Urban Forestry, HANDS Organization, and others,” said Mr. Butt.

He said with the technical help of partners like PARC, Sindh Agriculture University Tando Jam, and ISHU-KU, they adopted proven plantation techniques to take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts jointly.

Another massive opening in Thar is the organic fish farming by setting up small- and large-scale fish farms at the pattern of Gorano Pond, which cultivates tons of fish-catch every year. Gorano is 35 KMs south of the Islamkot Taulka where an artificial reservoir of 1500 Acres was established. Dewatering started in April 2017 from SECMC coalmine and so far, 600 Acres of the reservoir have been filled with water.

Project In Charge of the Gorano Fish farming, Hafiz Shakeel told that this is the perfect illustration of innovation derived by the idea of utilizing the excess volume of underground water for which more than 100,000 fish-seedlings (3-4inches in size) were initially released and within 8-9 months, fishes became the size of more than 1Kg only on natural feed (Zooplanktons, Phytoplanktons, Algae and other marine insects available in Pond) and were declared fit for consumption by an external laboratory.

After the successful production, Hafiz said Thar Foundation and Sindh Fisheries Department under a joint venture also released 200,000 fish seedlings.

He said seedlings of 3–4-inch size released in 2018 have now 8kg-12kg in weight, while seedlings released in 2019 have grown to 4kg-6kg.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021


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