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Management Of Scarce Water Resources For Rehabilitation Of Degraded Lands In Arid And Semi-arid Region Of Southern Pakistan

Congress: 2015
Author(s): Sahibzada Irfanullah
Sustainable Land Management Programme1

Keyword(s): Sub-theme 10: Management of water resources,


There are more than 3 billion people globally living in drylands that cover 40% of earth's surface; ROBIN (2002). In Pakistan, the situation is severe with 75% of the country's area receiving less than 250 mm of annual rainfall; PMD (1998). Karak is one of the most dry regions in Pakistan where more than 80% people live below poverty line. Their livelihood is dependant on rainfed subsistence agriculture and livestock. The livestock is then dependant on natural range vegetation in the form of low trees, shrubs and grasses. However, due to increasing drought conditions and scarcity of rainfall, the agriculture is not more a productive activity and croplands are increasingly abandoned. To fill this gap in livelihood, the number of livestock per household is increasing with time. This exerts extra pressure on natural vegetation of the rangelands as it is grazed more intensively and more frequently. This leads to the degradation of ecosystem and depletion of natural vegetation. The scanty rainfall condition, hot weather and sustained grazing pressure restricts recovery potential of natural vegetation. The phenomenon thus adds to desertification that compounds the problem of poverty and makes communities utterly vulnerable to the situation. . In the efforts to survive, they become heavily indebted, their health is badly affected and most of them migrate to urban areas. To come out of the situation, there is a need for locally developed and adopted methodologies for rehabilitation of the ecosystem to restore the livelihood base.

Methodology and partnership arrangements

The InteCooperation-Pakistan Delegation Office initated the Farm Forestry Support Project (FFSP) with funding from by Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) ecosystem rehabilitation work in District Karak in 2003. The field interventions under this initiative took place in partnership between the FFSP, the Forest Department and local community organizations. The following measures were used for rehabilitation:

(1) The development of silvopastures: Within the Karak region, 5 sights were selected for applying the "Hillside Ditch" technique to recover the fertility of soil, productive potential of the land and hence the vegetation cover. Continuous ditches along the contour line having plant pits at regular interval were excavated. The ditches were 66 centimeters wide and 30 centimeters deep, with excavated soil from ditch placed on downhill side making continuous ridge of 30 centimeters. The plant pits were planted with tree species that were fast growing and having fodder value. The inter-spaces between plants were sown with seeds of grasses and fodder shrubs. The species used on different sites included Acacia albida, Dalbergia sissoo, Acacia nilotica, Melia azadarich, and Acacia Victoria in trees, Dodoneae viscose and Acacia modesta in shrubs, and Sorgham almum and Cenchrus ciliaris in grasses.

(2) Sand-dune stabilization: Suckers of Saccharum spontaneum (locally called as Kana) were used for the purpose of stabilizing sand dunes, acting as wind-breaks for crop lands, and contributing to household income in the form of proceeds from sale of its stalks and leaves. Local communities selected 9 sites for demonstration of Kana. Kana suckers were planted at a spacing of 5 meter x 3 meter in straight lines Figure 10). Total cost per hectare of Kana establishment on sandy land including the cost of suckers and labour was Rs. 5,000 (US$ US$ 83).

Results and outcomes

According to the data collected from different sites, the average survival rate of trees planted was 40%, the average number of trees growing per hectare becoming 218. This number was manifold more than the number of trees growing on these type of lands without treatment (i.e. 14 trees per hectare; PFI (2005). The height and diameter growth rate on these sites recorded was also considerably higher. Maximum diameter and height growths were recorded in case of Acacia albida as 20 centimeters and 6 meters respectively, followed by Acacia nilotica as 15 centimeters and 5 meters respectively (Table 1).

Table 1: Growth data for trees, shrubs and grasses in Hillside Ditches: SAHIBZADA (2008)

Due to retention of run-off and percolation of run-off water into soil on the site, a profuse growth of local annual and perennial grasses was recorded, in addition to the Sorgham almum and Cenchrus ciliaris that was sown during plantation activity. The average soil cover on these soils recorded was 45%, considerably high over normal cover on these degraded lands (10-15% on the average). These grasses and shrubs were of high value as a feed for local goats and sheep.

Due to use of specialized instruments and machinery, the cost was very low for applying hillside ditch technique to the development of silvo-pastures. The total cost including use of machinery, planting stock, seeds, and labor was calculated as US$ 82 per hectare. The usual cost per hectare plantation activity by the Forest Department was Rs. 19,800 or US$ 330 that was considerably higher than the cost on using hillside ditches; FATA (2007).

On the sand dunes,tThe average annual return from Kana site was Rs. 44,100 (US$ 735) that was profitably comparable with other land uses available for sand dunes (Gram, Canola and Mustard), except wheat.

1. Agriculture Research Station (2008) Agriculture statistics for drylands of Karak. Ahmadwala, District Karak, Pakistan.

2. Fischler, M., et al (2006) Dryland management: A perspective for livelihood improvement in rural areas, Experiences from Pakistan. Intercooperation – Pakistan, Peshawar.

3. Irfanullah, S. (2008) Dryland management and rehabilitation: A case study from Karak District, Pakistan. Studies in Indian Economy. Volume 3. 108-114.

4. Robin, P. W., et al (2002) An ecosystem approach to drylands: Building support for new development policies, Information Policy Brief No. 1. World Resources Institute, Washington, DC.

5. United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) (1999) United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification in Those Countries Experiencing Serious Drought and/or Desertification, Particularly in Africa. UNCCD, France.

2011 IWRA - International Water Resources Association - - Admin