After a lifetime of tending his lands, a desperate Khudayar Khan has now started working as a daily wage laborer to make ends meet. His three-acre farm along the vast Indus river in Ghotki district of Pakistan’s Sindh province has turned barren due to water-logging and salinity.
“Repeated cultivation of rice and sugarcane on my land has resulted in water-logging and I am left with no option but to start working as a labourer in a factory,” he said.
His is not the only tale of ruin in the area, most of which is irrigated by the Indus, one of the longest rivers in Asia and a lifeline for millions of people in Pakistan.
Urging the government to initiate a programme to deal with growing water logging and salinity, Khan says the twin problems were destroying hundreds of acres of arable land each year. The excessive use of water for crops like rice and sugarcane has raised the groundwater table in Ghotki and some other adjoining districts.
Experts and studies back the farmer’s claims. The excessive use of water for crops, non-cemented canals and a poor drainage system are causing water-logging and salinity in the area.
“The entire left bank of the Indus river could turn into lakes of saline water in the next 10 to 15 years if timely action isn't initiated to curb water-logging and salinity,” warned Nabi Bukhsh, general secretary of the Sindh Chamber of Agriculture.
“Rice and sugarcane are the most water consuming crops and they ultimately raise groundwater table to a dangerous level,” Bukhsh told thethirdpole.net. In his estimate, over 90% of farmers on the left bank of the Indus had been cultivating the two crops for the last three decades.