Banana orchards are destroyed by water shortage alarms

KARACHI: Water scarcity in Sindh has jeopardized cotton, sugarcane, vegetable and fruit crops, with banana orchards being cleared as farmers could not afford the rising cost of water light diesel to operate the tube wells.

In 2017, growers faced the worst water shortage when they did not receive water from the canal for two months – February and March. Now, water has not arrived in the canals for the fourth consecutive month since February 2022.

Nisar Khaskheli, a producer from Khairpur, said, “I am a mid-level producer and I spend around Rs 200,000 per month on diesel to run the tube wells alone.” He called it the worst year in terms of water shortage.

Khaskheli also coped with the 2017 drought when he used tube wells until April 6.

“When the heat increases after April 15, the banana plantations need water every 8 days. Growers are now removing banana orchards because there is no water and diesel prices have also risen. We cannot maintain our orchards,” he added.

Gone are the days of worrying about DAP, urea and pesticides, he lamented: “Now we want the crop to survive and be saved.

Groundwater was not very useful and it was not available throughout the province, except for some areas of katcha, where underground freshwater was available. “Now the water reaches the land once every 15 days or a month, that too with a low level. It is only enough for humans and animals to drink,” Khaskheli said.

He said the cotton crop had dried up in several parts of Sindh. “Dried flowers are falling off the stalks amid water shortages and rising temperatures,” he added.

The paddy season has also arrived, which requires a 24-hour stable water supply. In addition, sugar cane, cotton and bananas were the most affected crops. “In order to save a banana crop of 50 acres, 1.0 million rupees are spent on water expenses alone,” Khaskheli said.

Mehmood Nawaz Shah, Senior Vice Chairman of Sindh Abadgar Board (SAB), said water shortage was a subjective term, it was an acute shortage since March and April. “The beginning of Kharif starts in Sindh when he cultivates 1.3 to 1.4 million acres or 0.55 million hectares of cotton. So far, about 50% of the cotton sowing has been done . »

The problem, however, was to maintain cotton cultivation due to severe water shortage. That’s not all, he said about “0.6 to 0.7 million acres of sugarcane and 0.3 to 0.4 million acres of vegetables and fruits are at risk.” Officially, there was a 50% shortage at the dams. However, a water shortage of 60 to 70% has been recorded in several regions of the province. “Paddy is one of the major Kharif crops. Its nurseries are sown in May. But due to unavailability of water, less than five percent of paddy nurseries have been reported. June has arrived and people are waiting to finish sowing.

The SAB official said the water in the canals might not be enough as the ice melt was weak. However, the situation worsened and Sindh’s 40 percent water was short downstream of Taunsa. “The National Assembly committee and the experts had verified it. It was recorded, but they are delaying the publication of the meeting minutes. Sindh is facing more damage than other provinces due to water shortages,” he said.

On the other hand, early cotton picking has started in Sindh and some ginneries are expected to start operations by the middle of this month. Naseem Usman, chairman of the Karachi Cotton Brokers Association, said the water situation had improved in some areas but the temperature had risen which could affect the harvest.

Pakistan’s cotton planting target was 2.32 million hectares in 2022, but only 1.936 million hectares were achieved, down 6.9% from last year’s plantings of 2.078 million hectares.

The cotton planting target in Sindh was 0.64 million hectares, of which 0.594 million hectares or 92.8 percent were achieved.

A grower said that meeting the planting target was not the major problem, but maintaining the crop was due to the lack of water. Cotton flowering would not sustain amid water shortages and rising temperatures.

Gulab Shah, a farmer from Thatta, said that 50% of cultivated land in Thatta had already become barren due to water shortages, but this year the area of ​​barren land was even higher. “Crops and vegetables are drying up,” he said.

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