Record Heatwave and Drought in Pakistan Threaten Crops and Olive Farming

The unprecedented heatwave also has caused glacial floods and power outages. Further temperature rises are expected.
Attabad Lake in Northern Pakistan
By Paolo DeAndreis
May. 16, 2022 16:10 UTC

Pakistan is in the midst of a pro­longed heat­wave, which has caused severe water short­ages impact­ing the peo­ple’s health and agri­cul­tural pro­duc­tion.

The water short­ages are impact­ing all types of agri­cul­tural pro­duc­ers. According to Manzoor Wassan, sec­re­tary of agri­cul­ture in the Sindh region, they are affect­ing olive groves, cere­als, man­gos, pep­pers, palm orchards and sug­ar­cane.

There is a severe short­age of drink­ing water in the province and prob­lems in irri­ga­tion canals. The econ­omy will face more dif­fi­cul­ties if the sit­u­a­tion is not addressed.- Sharjeel Memon, Sind infor­ma­tion sec­re­tary

Along with the per­ni­cious effects of the drought, farm­ers are also try­ing to recover from mas­sive flood­ing caused by melt­ing glac­i­ers in the moun­tain­ous north of the coun­try due to the extreme heat.

Sindh is a south­ern Pakistani region home to sev­eral of the nation’s olive grow­ing devel­op­ment projects. Most of those projects focus on irri­gated high-den­sity and super-high-den­sity groves.

See Also:Olive Farmers in Pakistan Seek Government Assistance to Scale Production

The record-break­ing heat­wave hit­ting the coun­try raised tem­per­a­tures to 45 °C in April and March.

Rising tem­per­a­tures, in turn, caused a surge in demand for elec­tric­ity to power fans and air con­di­tion­ers while also exac­er­bat­ing the water cri­sis.

Jacobabad, a city in Sindh, expe­ri­enced its hottest April in the last 122 years, with tem­per­a­tures hit­ting 49 °C.

According to the United Nations News Service, the Pakistani Meteorological Department is warn­ing that the unusual heat lev­els would accel­er­ate snow and ice melt in the moun­tain­ous regions of Gilgit-Baltistan and Khyber Pakhtunkwa, pos­si­bly trig­ger­ing glacial lake floods or flash floods in vul­ner­a­ble areas.

Wassan warned that water is dis­ap­pear­ing from the canals used in Sindh for irri­ga­tion. The share of water avail­able for agri­cul­ture has now fallen 47 per­cent and is get­ting worse by the day.

An even more urgent alarm came from the Sindh infor­ma­tion sec­re­tary, Sharjeel Memon, who appealed to the fed­eral gov­ern­ment for quick inter­ven­tion.

There is a severe short­age of drink­ing water in the province and prob­lems in irri­ga­tion canals,” he said. The econ­omy will face more dif­fi­cul­ties if the sit­u­a­tion is not addressed.”

According to local offi­cials, the Indus River reser­voirs of Guddu, Sukkur and Kotri have seen their lev­els drop sig­nif­i­cantly and are now in a range between 40 and 51 per­cent of the nor­mal level.

The Indus River is the most rel­e­vant source for the coun­try’s water dis­tri­b­u­tion infra­struc­ture.

Research recently pub­lished by the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics con­firmed that the causes of the coun­try’s water scarcity are related to the rapid pop­u­la­tion growth com­bined with the grow­ing effects of cli­mate change, which is exac­er­bat­ing floods and droughts.

According to the study, water scarcity is also due to poor water man­age­ment in the agri­cul­tural sec­tor, old or inef­fi­cient infra­struc­ture and wide­spread water pol­lu­tion prob­lems.

United Nations data from 2021 cited by the research show that only 36 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion has access to safe drink­ing water.

The data also show that the coun­try’s irri­ga­tion sys­tem receives an effi­ciency rate of less than 39 per­cent. Of the 143 bil­lion cubic meters avail­able at the canal head­works, only 55 bil­lion arrive in the fields.

The fig­ure is emblem­atic of the chal­lenges the regional and fed­eral gov­ern­ments have to face to sup­port the coun­try’s agri­cul­tural out­put.

While olive grow­ing in Sindh has just begun to develop, olive farm­ing has been the core of many devel­op­ment projects in other regions of Pakistan in recent years.

Under the Ten Billion Tree Tsunami Project, Pakistan is grow­ing thou­sands of olive trees and aims soon to reach four mil­lion hectares of olive grow­ing sur­face.

In Sindh, the first olive grove was recently announced, with sev­eral devel­op­ment projects being explored. International pat­terns, includ­ing Italy, are among the biggest back­ers and investors in Pakistan’s fledg­ling olive sec­tor.

The International Olive Council (IOC) and Pakistani gov­ern­ment rep­re­sen­ta­tives recently announced that the coun­try is enter­ing the coun­cil as its 19th mem­ber.

The announce­ment came as a con­se­quence of the ongo­ing devel­op­ment of olive infra­struc­ture in the coun­try, includ­ing nurs­eries, lab­o­ra­to­ries and mills. One of the incen­tives to join the IOC is the poten­tial to strengthen inter­na­tional coop­er­a­tion, which has sup­ported the coun­try’s olive ini­tia­tives.

Pakistan feels the need to con­nect with the coun­cil as they are devel­op­ing their olive sec­tor and their inter­nal olive oil con­sump­tion grows,” Abdellatif Ghedira, the IOC’s exec­u­tive direc­tor, recently told Olive Oil Times.


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