Conocarpus is Destroying Plant Biodiversity of Our Big Cities

Conocarpus is recently introduced much famous lush green plant. Its botanical name is Conocarpus erectus which belongs to family compretaceae. It is a fast-growing medium size tree. It can be trimmed to shrubs. It can be shaped in various shapes so vital role in topiary work. It is It is becoming most popular in big cities i.e. Karachi, Lahore, Faisalabad etc. of Pakistan. This tree is not native to our area.

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It is recently introduced in our landscape but has captured area within no time. It is among the most fast-growing plant having countless properties making it the most valuable plant. It is fit in all places due to its hidden resistant mechanism to salinity, heat, cold, waterlogging and drought etc. It can tolerate salt-affected soils, water shortage, hard soils, smoky areas, and waterlogging conditions. It is best known for its growth where other such plants fail to grow. It can grow along and between traffic roads. It has a very positive and clearing effect in the environment. It is facilitating to keep balance and stabilizing temperatures, enhance photosynthesis, reduce noise pollution, and holds off dust.

It is destroying our biodiversity in big cities due to its characteristics of growing every kind of environment and each type of soil. It is an exotic plant but replacing every plant threatening our landscape to monoculture rather than multicultural landscape. It also influences the growth of other plants in the vicinity of its root. It has health hazard effects too which has been observed and becoming ban in various countries of the world. For example, it was brought to Kuwait in 1988 which gained much popularity but now it is ban there. One of the main objective of growth of plants is to reduce the CO2 level in the air. It is research out and reported that it is consuming very less amount of CO2 as compared to others. So, if it is not fulfilling its main requirement it is of no use. In gulf countries, it is ban in the landscape as its fast and hard growing roots are breaking underground pipes. Its fast-growing nature of roots is harmful to the base of buildings.

Finally, it is stated that we should avoid its misuse. Government landscape agencies should uproot extra conocarpus plants and plant other plants suitable to that environment. Avoid growing where there are underground pipes and near buildings. Avoid its excessive plantation and diversify our environment.

Impacts of Climate Change on Agriculture and the Way Forward

By Ghulam Muhammad Qamar ud Din

Department of Plant Pathology, University of Agriculture Faisalabad

Climate change is an issue of great consideration. It should be addressed on the foremost priority. Although it is an international issue, Pakistan is considered as the most vulnerable country throughout the world. According to the statistical bureau of Pakistan, Pakistan is among top ten countries affected by climate change. It has vast impacts on the production of agriculture directly or indirectly. As for as the concern is for direct impacts, a shift in climate has affected the production of major crops such as wheat, rice, cotton and sugarcane due to the increase in temperature. Our conservative farmers consistently attach to their conventional cultivation methods such as selection of crops in rotation, date of sowing, the method of irrigation and other agronomic management practices. On contrary to this, in indirect impacts, it badly affected the regulation of water. In summer it causes the melting of the glacier because of high temperature and resultantly flooding. The live example in Pakistan is the flood of 2010. In this flood, 1,645 people lost their lives in flash flood streams, more than 2,479 were injured and many others were reported to missing after the flood.  It affected the 62,000 square miles of land that was about one-fifth of Pakistan’s whole area. These are the losses of the flood in addition to the destruction of infrastructure.  On the other hand, we have fewer dams to store water or control the stream flows. Moreover, severe water scarcity is observed during Rabi season and at the start of Kharif, when major cash crops cotton and rice are planted. If this condition will prevail for a long time, there would no water in our rivers and canals to irrigates our crops. From the last few years, the yield of current Kharif crop (cotton) has declined due to change in patterns of the insect attack, that might have also been favored due to the environment shift. Therefore, it is the need of the hour that it should be addressed properly. This is fortunate for Pakistan that it is a member of Paris agreement, millennium development goals, and sustainable development goals. But this is not enough to be the part of the above-mentioned forum. The government should take some practical steps to tackle the situation that is worsening day by day. Followings are the major steps that are helpful to counter the impact of climate change.

  • Our federal government should increase the budget for climate change. The current budget is 802.79 million that is comparatively less as compared to the developed countries.
  • Targets should be given by the federal government to the provincial governments.
  • The government should undertake the voluntary actions and reduce emission through National Determined Contribution (NDC).
  • New courses should be introduced from primary level to graduation.
  • Media should create awareness among the masses.
  • Develop disaster risk management program in Pakistan with the help of united nations.
  • Increase forestation to curtail the effects of high temperature. It should be the part of our national policy.

Role of Agriculture and Biotechnology to Eliminate Smog

Word ‘’Smog’’ was used in 20th century 1st time. Actually it is a term which is mixture of fog and smoke. Fog along with the toxic compounds such as Nitrogen Oxide, Sulphur Oxide and Ozone is coined as Smog. Now a days ,Vehicles, Industries, forest fires and photochemical reactions are main source of the  smog. Now a days smog is a main health damage issue in Pakistan. Smog covers the two main cities of Pakistan (Lahore and Faisalabad) every year and ration of pollutants is increasing year by year. According to a World Health Organization, it is estimated that almost 60,000 Pakistanis died from the high level of fine particles in the air. Initially it was a problem of Developing Countries such as California, China and Japan are on the top of the list.

Most common health problems are respiratory and heath problems in adults and in children it leads to the pneumonia and asthma ultimately leads to the death. Smog also contains the carcinogenic elements and leads to serious cancerous diseases. Now there is need to create awareness in public and also need for concerning departments to step forward and play their role to save country and nation.According to a report Punjab Environment Protection Department is need prepare to handle any senstive  conditions to save environment due to the lack of resources.According to the Labs director Tauqeer Ahmed Qureshi “We have limited finance and human resources,” he admits. “Our last tender for the instruments was for Rs40 million per machine, while maintenance would cost Rs5 million every year per station.”

Here is need of Agricultural Sector to step forward for their contribution.11 plants are listed which are important to eliminate the pollution and smog from the air and these are Areca Palm, Money Plant, Spider Plant, Purple Waffle Plant, Bamboo Palm, Variegated Wax Plant, Lily turf, Boston Fern, Dwarf Date Palm, Moth Orchids and Barberton Daisy. These plant should be grow more and more to reduce the pollution and create awareness in people to grow these plants in their home, gardens and offices.

Biotechnology can play a major role for the environment safety. Bioremediation is an important method to reduce pollutants from the air. It is the use of the microorganisms to eliminate the pollution from the environment. Bioadsorption is also a new process  in which bioadsorbers are being made from the renewable materials and work as eliminator of toxic heavy metals. Genetically engineered grasses and trees may be a excellent source of pollution removal. Phytoremediation is the process in which plants are engineered in such a way that they become capable to absorb the toxic metals and other pollutants and convert them into the harmless compounds. Now  there is need of biotechnologists and other scientists to start work on this issue and play an remarkable role to save the air and to save the life.

Written By ‘’ Javaria Tabusam’’ Department of CABB,UAF.

Pakistan farmers grapple with climate change

Saleem Shaikh and Sughra Tunio

Gujar Khan, Pakistan – After five consecutive dry winters, Abdul Qadeer was jubilant at the prospect of a plentiful harvest of wheat after December rains soaked his farmland.

But the 39-year-old farmer’s hopes were destroyed last month by torrential spring rains and a hailstorm that flattened his wheat crop.

Qadeer is one of many farmers suffering the effects of unpredictable weather patterns and variable rainfall, which scientists believe are linked to climate change.

Now Pakistan’s government is trying to introduce crop insurance to save farmers from economic ruin. Qadeer, who farms land in Gujar Khan, approximately 55 km southeast of Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital, vividly recalls the unexpected volley of pebble-sized hailstones that lashed his 15-acre (6-hectare) field for about 15 minutes one day in the last week of March.

“I could clearly hear dull, clunking sounds of the hailstones that slashed through the stalks of the standing wheat crop and knocked (the ears of wheat) to the ground,” Qadeer said.

He had anticipated harvesting a good crop in the second week of April, but the unseasonal storm destroyed his wheat, causing losses of 800,000 Pakistani rupees ($8,000).

Zaman Ali, a farmer in Islamabad’s southern suburb of Chak Shahzad, says 70 percent of the wheat he was growing on 9 acres (3.6 hectares) was destroyed by strong winds and heavy rain.

Farmers are really defenceless when such unwanted torrential rains and hailstorms strike their crops. We are really completely at the mercy of the weather

Muhammad Riaz, farmer,

Ali believes the yield from the remaining wheat will reach only 60 percent of what it should have been, because the rains brought unseasonably low temperatures, preventing the grain from maturing properly. Ali described the weather as unprecedented in his 15 years of experience growing crops.

“Farmers are really defenceless when such unwanted torrential rains and hailstorms strike their crops,” said Muhammad Riaz, who lost crops worth about 1.6 million rupees ($16,000) on his 24-acre (10-hectare) farm in Haripur, 65 km (40 miles) north of Islamabad. “We are really completely at the mercy of the weather.”

Insurance coming soon?

“The solution to such grim situations that are becoming frequent lies in crop insurance,” said Nazar Muhammad Gondal, Pakistan’s former federal minister for food and agriculture. “Farmers can at least recover some of the financial damages, and are able to cultivate next season crops.”

Crop insurance is not currently available in Pakistan, but Iftikhar Ahmed, chairman of the state-owned Pakistan Agriculture Research Council (PARC), said the government is leading negotiations with insurance firms and banks to introduce a national crop insurance programme, similar to those introduced in Sri Lanka, India and Nepal. It is hoped the insurance will be available by mid-November this year.

In Pakistan, wheat is sown in mid-October and harvested in mid-April. Around 16 million acres (6.5 million hectares) are planted with wheat every year, yielding around 25 million tonnes of grain.

“Eight to 10 years ago, the spring season used to come in the first week of March and last for 25 to 30 days. Now, it comes in late March and lasts for only 15 to 20 days,” said farmer Qadeer.

Spring rain is a rare phenomenon in Pakistan, particularly in northern and central areas. The inclement weather lowered the temperature by 20 degrees Celsius to around 9 degrees this year.

“From March to mid-April, the wheat crop needs (temperatures) above 30 degrees Celsius for its healthy growth of stalk and grain, and to avoid pest attacks,” said Qamar-uz-Zaman Chaudhry, the World Meteorological Organisation’s vice president for the Asia region and a former director-general of the Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD).

According to PARC’s Ahmed, high moisture levels in the air have also led to fungus and insect infestations.

Production drops

Officials at the federal food security and research ministry in Islamabad say they expect wheat production from rain-fed land to be 30 percent lower than normal as a result of the extreme weather.

Ghulam Rasul, chief meteorologist at the PMD, said that although hailstorms can be forecast six to 12 hours in advance, the damage they cause to crops cannot be staved off.

“We had predicted both torrential rains and hailstorms on March 23 and 24 in the upper and central parts of the country, and dust storms and intermittent rains for two to four days in the last week of March in southern and coastal areas,” he said.

“Since these untimely or unseasonal rains and hailstorm came at a time when most of the winter crops such as wheat, mustard, vegetables were near harvest, nothing could be done to save the standing crops,” he explained.

Ibrahim Mughal, chairman of Agri Forum Pakistan, a nongovernmental farmers’ body based in Lahore, said the government has consulted with representatives of farmers’ groups about ways to make a national insurance programme effective.

The views of smallholders are key because their share of cultivation is around 75 percent.

“We have suggested that, without a mass awareness campaign about the benefits of crop insurance and subsidising premiums for small or subsistence farmers…the insurance programme is unlikely to win the hearts of farmers,” said Mughal.

This article first appeared on the Thomson Reuters Foundation news service

Source: Al Jazeera

Climate change: red alert or red herring?

Climate experts have been drawing a doomsday scenario with threats of natural disasters such as droughts, floods, water wars and other calamities that can be blamed on global warming. The hoopla has led agricultural researchers to ponder on impending food shortages, and therefore a laborious research has begun to produce climate-proof crops that can defy extreme heat or cold.

While researchers and experts have realised the need for change in production ways, the gravity of the situation has not sunk in with government departments.

“Recent disasters have, jolted their (officials’) minds but this area needs much more serious efforts particularly in climate proofing rather than just waiting for damages to happen and then take recourse. More political commitment, investment in relevant institutions, robust strategies and effective implementation and follow-up are needed” said Naseer Memon, a climate change expert.

According to Iftikhar Ahmad, chairman of Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC), increased preparedness for climate-related risk management through a multi-disciplinary approach is the need of the hour.

Time is indeed a critical factor. The impact of extreme weather patterns and scarcity of water will be felt on food production, in the next ten years, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

“This includes development of improved crop varieties with resistance to emerging biotic and a-biotic stresses, introduction of new crop species, investment in new irrigation systems, and use of eco-friendly management options (for example, organic agriculture, bio-pesticides, bio-herbicides),” Ahmad of PARC explained.

However, international agricultural economist Dr Zafar Altaf has dismissed the hype surrounding climate change.

“As plants have an inherent ability to fight drought and rain, there is little need to tamper with nature or fight climate change,” he told

Meanwhile, several Pakistani agricultural experts have been busy searching for methods that could help climate-proof crops. There have been talks of setting up of national seed banks for such varieties that can withstand extreme events and even grow crops that produce more food, have more nutrients and grow on the same amount of land, with less water.

Despite the interest being shown by his compatriots, Altaf was adamant that climate-proofing is a ‘red herring’ by the west.

According to Altaf, the West’s cropping pattern, which he terms ‘meaningless,’ was inherited as a colonial legacy and is being promoted by its own interests.

“Pakistan will not run out of food, so there is no need for climate-proof crops.”

Underlining the need for innovative farming methods, he added, “new ways require imagination and specialists who are multi-disciplinarian; improved marketing of the produce and achieving food security.”

This, however, cannot be achieved without hiccups. “The pace at which climate changes will occur, needs to be at par with the change in mentality in the agriculture sector,” Altaf said.
“There is an urgent need to raise the educational standards drastically.”

In addition, the farmer has to be inducted in that development paradigm shift. “The best option is to make the farmer a party to decision making,” he said.

The same notion was endorsed by PARC chairman Iftikhar Ahmad, who called for improved climate-related decision-making should be at the farms.
“Farmers need to gain a better understanding of the climate factors that affect crop yield in their environment”.

This, he insisted, would allow decision makers to identify possible management options based on climate information or seasonal forecasts. “That will not only enhance the resilience in various cropping systems but also sustain the farm productivity.”

The threat is that if farmers are not taken along, the implication of climate change on crop yields may lead to the risk of hunger, which could be disastrous as Pakistan is already facing acute malnourishment.

According to Pakistan’s National Nutrition Survey 2011, 57 per cent of the country’s total population of 184 million is facing food insecurity.

The finding of the national survey (carried out by the ministry of health’s Nutrition Wing in collaboration with the Aga Khan University) states that among that 57 per cent, half the women and children were found to be malnourished.

Dr Zulfikar Bhutta, the lead investigator of the nutrition report, believes “increased poverty levels, illiteracy, lack of awareness regarding the right kind of food to take, and a government distracted by non-issues” has led to the unacceptable high levels of malnourishment.

“I find it extremely alarming that we will have a generation of unhealthy children who will grow up to be unhealthy adults.”

Health experts, including Bhutta have long been raising awareness regarding Vitamin A, zinc and Vitamin D deficiency.

While climate change does contribute to the malnourishment crisis, it is only one of the known risk factors that may lead to food insecurity.

“In addition to introducing farmer-friendly policies (for example, those related to market availability and stability), timely availability of inputs (seeds, fertilizers, irrigation water) needs to be ensured to minimise the impacts of climate change” Iftikhar Ahmad said.

According to Altaf, input costs can be reduced by using organic fertilisers as opposed to chemical fertiliser, which is 20 times more expensive. “But the West and the vested interests in this country would not allow such a move,” he said.

He reiterated the need to make the locally produced food easily available and affordable.

“Pakistan can make it on its own provided the marketing is made more relevant and fair.”

“At the moment the physical distance between the consumer and the producer is immense.”

When Pakistan and India were partitioned (in 1947), the number agriculture markets in Punjab was 650, which has now come down to 119.

“Consumers are suffering because of policy indifference. The small farmer can become viable if he does have the facility to sell in markets closer home.”

Altaf emphasized that Pakistan’s problems were not with nature but with humans who do not understand the implications of donor-driven policies.

He went on to add that the assistance provided by international donor agencies does not help.

“They have allowed misallocation of resources because they cannot afford failures. They go to the most likely areas where the projects can be a success – the irrigated areas of Sindh and Punjab provinces.”

“As a result, farmers based in marginal areas and fragile areas are excluded from the developmental process. These marginal areas can produce much more from their indigenous sources. It is the absence of relevant policies that is making life risky.”