KHAIRPUR - A three-day international conference on ‘Geographical Evaluation of Agriculture in Pakistan: Challenges and Remedies’, organised by the Department of Geography, Shah Abdul Latif University, (SALU) in collaboration with Higher Education Commission (HEC), was inaugurated here at the university’s campus on Monday.

Syeda Nafisa Shah Jillani, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) MNA, who was the chief guest on the occasion, declared the event open, while SALU Vice Chancellor (VC) Professor Dr Parveen Shah presided over the inaugural session.

Speaking on the occasion, Dr Syeda Nafisa Shah Jillani said, “Geography is a very important subject. Geography and agriculture are interlinked. Nowadays, we are facing geo-political challenges. Pakistan is blessed with high mountains, approximately 2,800 feet high and 1500 miles long delta region. The country is rich in agricultural products as it has variety of seasons.”

She further said that River Indus was the life line of Pakistan’s economy. “The British developed this area. It was after the British invaded India that they built barrages.  Earlier the floodwater was the main source of agriculture,” Nafisa added.

She said that water logging and salinity was increasing day by day due to defective irrigation system. She further informed that due to sea incursion, 2.2 million acres of agriculture land had been spoiled.

“Rapid and unchecked urbanisation, chopping of trees and development of real estate culture in Islamabad, the city is shrinking day by day. Massive urbanization has also had an adverse impact on agriculture productivity,” PPP MNA said, and added, “It is high time that academic and policymakers realise gravity of the situation in terms of land degradation and put forward innovative solutions for sustainable agriculture.”

In her speech, SALU VC Professor Dr Parveen Shah thanked all national and international speakers, who had covered long distances to attend the event and enlighten the participants with their views on the subject. “I am confident that their precious contribution and valuable suggestions will help develop the agriculture sector of the country,” she hoped, and said that the Department of Geography had completed all arrangements to install a sub-meteorological station in the department in collaboration with Pakistan Meteorological Department.

“Apart from that, a GIS and Remote Sensing Laboratory to be completed at the cost of Rs2.3 million have also been approved by SUPARCO,” she added.

She said that Pakistan’s agriculture sector had a great potential and at the time of independence Pakistan was mainly an agricultural country. “Industrialization is the period of social and economic change that transforms a country from an agrarian society to an industrial one. Pakistan’s principal natural resources are arable land and water,” she said, and added, “Almost sixty years back, the agriculture sector was neglected both in the developed and underdeveloped countries of the world. It was regarded as residual reservoir.”

She said that in 1970s, during the regime of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto (ZAB), the importance of agriculture was realised and adequate attention was paid to the sector. “ZAB developed the sector significantly. About 65 percent of population lives in rural areas and nearly 40 percent of that segment of population is associated with farming,” SALU VC added.

Dr Waseem Raza from China, Dr. Ahsanullah Khattak from Peshawar, Dr Jamil Hassan Kazmi from Karachi, Dr Mumtaz Hussain Mahar, Dean, Faculty of Physical Sciences, Dr Noor Hussain Chandio, Department of Geography Chairman Dr Javed Iqbal from Karachi and other speakers talked about rapid melting of glaciers, floods, water contamination, hydrology, environment, crop patron, agriculture biotechnology and drip agriculture in their speeches.

They said that water scarcity had an adverse impact on food production. The effluent of saline and polluted water of right bank is also a potential threat for the life of Manchar Lake. Agriculture in the Indus Delta has been severely affected during the last two decades.

They further said that agriculture was considered the backbone of Pakistan’s economy. It has a vital role and lays down the foundation for economic development and growth. In Pakistan, the climate change is obvious in the scenario of global warming. Climate change directly hits the water resources, they said, and added, proper use of land is an essential part of successful farming.

The scholars from China and across the country are participating in the conference and are reading out their research papers on various themes.

Professor Dr Noor Ahmed, Pro Vice Chancellor, Main Campus, Professor Dr Abdul Razak Mahar, Professor Dr Taj Muhammad Lashari, Professor Dr Mir Munsif Ali Talpur, Professor Dr Ghulam Ali Mallah, teachers, research scholars and students attended the inaugural session of the conference.