Published On: Mon, Sep 29th, 2014

Climate change taking its toll on Pakistan’s agriculture

Haroon Akram Gill

Pakistan is being hit by the impacts of Climate Change more than any other part of the world and under the cycle of extreme weather events for last consecutive five years. Flash flooding in 2010 in upper areas of the Khyber PK caused huge damages, water ruined everything that came in its way and it went to the least corner of Sindh travelling through all of the country. It affected more than 20,000,000 million people were displaced and crops submerged at large. 2011 and 2012 witnessed heavy rains in Sindh and Baluchistan and a large area of country again devastated due to bulging of rivers and Nullehs. In 2013 flooding hit those areas which were not even in disaster management plans and again the country’s economy went under heavy losses as the main export commodity of Pakistan’s agri based economy rice faced almost 30 percent decrease in production.

It was being hoped that learning the lesson from such huge damages, proper planning and management will be there to counter the angry waters but recent heavy rainfall and flooding has revealed that no plans were there to counter the excessive devastation caused by flowing water which once again have submerged the rice crop in central Punjab and cotton in southern areas of the province. This time another important crop Sugarcane has also faced damages.

National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) figures show that 2,413,663 Acres of crops have been inundated in Punjab. Besides rice and cotton, Maize, Sugarcane, Vegetables, Fodder etc have suffered immense losses. Almost 1.7 Acres of cotton belt mainly Jhang, Multan, Rahim Yar Khan and Rajanpur and 800,000 Acres of Rice belt mainly, Gujranwala, Sialkot, Narowal, Hafizabad, Mandi Bahauddin and Chiniot have been affected.

Government has estimated that 211,677 acres out of total 5,813,000 of cotton whereas 200,000 out of 4,700,000 acres of rice have gone under total calamity. Director General Agriculture Extension, Punjab, Dr. Muhammad Anjum Ali says “We are doing our best to drain the water and to compensate the affected farmers”. He says that committees are estimating the damages caused by deluge and government has plans to compensate the farmers as it had been done last year. “Farmers owning land up to 12 ½ had been compensated with one packet of Urea and one packet of certified seed which amounts to Rs. 4050.” He further adds.

Experts say that if water drains within 24 hours it doesn’t hurt the rice crop much but the case is different for cotton and it cannot bear heavy water flow. That is why the fear of damage is much to the cotton crop. There is a viewpoint that damage could have been lesser had the overflow happened a month before it happened.

Farmers tell a total different story. They claim that the damage is much more than the estimates given by the government. Pakistan Muttahida Kissan Mahaz (PMKM), an organization working for Farmer’s rights claimed that cotton crop over 1,600,000 acres of land which is 23 percent of total, rice over 1,400,000 acres out of 4,743,000 amounts to 27 percent and 23 percent of sugarcane crop over approximately 450,000 acres of land has been damaged.

President Basmati Rice Growers Association Hamid Mallhi says that over 400,000 Acres of rice crops in Punjab have been submerged and it will affect the overall rice production by 10 percent at least. The damage approximately amounts to 70 Billion Rupees. He says that compensation planned to be paid to farmers has been assessed at Rs. 4000 per acre and that too only for farmers owning 10 acres or less. It should be at least Rs.10000 per acre which is the minimum required for sowing an acre of wheat.
It is feared that the losses will severely impacting the exports of

Pakistan as exports depend on rice and cotton a lot but Rice Exporters Association (REAP) official says that recent damages will have no impact on rice export in current year as new rice crop has no share in exports. For last five years the rice export is around 3700,000 Metric tons worth 2 billion US dollar and no decrease is expected this year.

An integrated comprehensive plan to cope with such frequent climatic disasters is need of the hour. Agriculture sector is most vulnerable in this regard. All the stakeholders should think and act accordingly.

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