Thursday, March 02, 2023, Islamabad: The saline aquaculture in the salinity-affected districts of Sindh and Punjab has huge potential in boosting the blue economy and sustainable livelihoods along Indus Basin.

There is tremendous scope for saline aquaculture in Pakistan as an alternative form of livelihood for farmers dealing with increasing levels of salinity, and to address food security and malnutrition in the country. To date, there has not been a comprehensive assessment of the current state and potential of the saline aquaculture sector in Pakistan.

In this context, International Water Management Institute (IWMI) Pakistan in partnership with WorldFish is implementing opportunities for saline aquaculture in Pakistan project, with funding from the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

Mr. Damien Donavan, Acting Australian High Commissioner, said, “Australia and Pakistan share common problems related to climate change, including increased dependence on poor groundwater and accelerated salinity levels. This is a collective national and global problem. Ultimately, the aim of this project is to help at-risk poor farming communities and secure livelihoods in Pakistan. Australia will continue to support Pakistan for this important venture.”

The project aimed to develop a shared understanding of the potential of saline aquaculture with farming communities and relevant government and non-government agencies as productive and profitable new farming activating for smallholders living in marginalized saline areas of the Southern Punjab and Sindh provinces.

The results of the project will feed into the policy and scenario analysis of the salinity in Pakistan, as well as inform policy directions for enhancing the production of saline aquaculture in Pakistan.

IWMI Pakistan conducted a comprehensive survey of saline fish farmers across four districts from Sindh (Thatta and Badin) and Punjab (Muzaffargarh and Rahim Yar Khan). These Districts were selected in consultation with stakeholders to identify marginalized saline areas where aquaculture could be improved.

Dr. Mohsin Hafeez, Country Representative, Pakistan/Regional Representative-Central Asia, IWMI, said, “66% of Pakistan’s population is protein deficient. To address protein deficiency the advancement of fish farming is very essential. IWMI has undertaken research on saline aquaculture, where 88% of respondents stated difficulty in securing a nutritional meal. This study can help create nutritional food security and secure livelihoods by improving saline aquaculture practices in Pakistan.”

IWMI conducted bright spot mapping to create salinity maps for the selected areas. GIS and remote sensing were used to identify villages in collaboration with the Pakistan Council of Research on Water Resources (PCRWR) and respective fisheries departments in Punjab and Sindh.

Dr. Muhammad Ashraf, Chairman, Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) said, “There is a huge potential to use research and technological resources, both for growing crops and for sustainability by utilizing saline aquaculture practices. The most important factor is the technology and how it can be used. What size should the pond be, what seed is required, and what kind of marketing mechanism is required to grow the fishing industry.”

Representatives of the fish farmers were also invited to the national consultation workshop to share their problems and the challenges they face due to lack of knowledge or lack of access to new technologies.

Fish Farmer, Mr. Ahmar Bilal from Muzaffargarh (Punjab Province) said, “With the passage of time conditions have become worse as fish feed and fertilizer prices have soared, leading to economic losses. I have observed that people who do fish farming through traditional methods are reluctant to use new technology. Farms should have devices to measure water characteristics and training to use these devices correctly so that diseases in fish farms can be identified.”

A female Fish Farmer, Ms. Rabia Najaf said, “I have been helping my father in fish farming for the last five years. People in our area lack knowledge relevant to saline aquaculture. However, I am thankful to IWMI for taking a step to address this issue. I would like to request that trainings and knowledge sharing with other farmers is also organized so more communities can benefit from this initiative. This will also enable other daughters and women like me to propagate fish farming in our area.”

Dr. Mir Allah Dad Talpur, Director General, Inland (Sindh Fisheries Department), and Dr. Riazuddu Qureshi, Director, Fisheries, Saline Water Aquaculture Research Centre (SWARC), Punjab, also took the stage to share their thoughts on the opportunities of saline aquaculture in Pakistan and the work being undertaken by the fisheries department.

As many as 121 fish farmers were interviewed in the four districts subsequently, the team carried out consultative workshops with all farmers at the district level to validate the result. Details reports in this regard will be shared with the public soon. The outcome of this study will provide a roadmap for transformation of saline aquaculture to provide alternative livelihoods of the marginalized small-scale farmer in Indus Basin and support in boosting the blue economy in the country.


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