Gurugram: High salinity makes farming a struggle. Now, there’s an answer

Gurugram: High salinity makes farming a struggle. Now, there’s an answer


Apatch of land in Pataudi which has been rendered uncultivable due to high salinity, will be reclaimed through the bio-drainage method by planting eucalyptus trees. In this year-long pilot project, an area of 347 acres has been fenced off and eucalyptuses have been planted by the forest department with the aim of reducing the salt content in the soil, and improving its overall quality.
If this model works, it will be replicated across Haryana, including in the state’s salt pans. Dead trees have already been removed from the 347 acres and eucalyptus trees have been planted. The latter process will help bring down the salinity in the soil.
According to the forest department’s data, some 80,000 hectares of land in the state is afflicted by high salinity, and thus, cannot be cultivated. “Because of the presence of high levels of salt in the soil, several areas in the state are unable to get utilised for agricultural purposes. Salt causes depletion of oxygen and as a result the plants suffer from loss of nutrients,” Vasvi Tyagi, chief conservator of forest, south Haryana, told TOI.
Altogether, 1,400 trees will be planted in the designated belt. Once the quality of the soil is improved, after the planting of eucalyptuses, the forest department is planning to introduce local fruit-bearing plants here.
To better understand the changes taking place, Tyagi explained, the area will be observed for a year and soil quality measured. Later, subject to the soil’s full recovery, the eucalyptus trees will be removed and a space will be made for native species.
For Haryana’s farmers, the move could not come too soon. Experts have pointed out that around 15% of the total salt-affected land in India falls in Haryana. Hence, this pilot project is crucial. Besides, according to hydrologists, uncontrolled groundwater extraction over the years has led to an increase in salinity in the soil. “Pumping out groundwater creates a void and thus the sub-surface saline water moves into this vacuum, and more and more areas are becoming rich in salt — all this affects farming in Haryana,” points out a hydrologist from the Gurugram groundwater cell.
Depending on its success, the project will be implemented in Mewat, Rohtak, Jhajjar, Sirsa, Jind, Bhiwani, Sonipat and Fatehabad districts of Haryana, where excessive levels of salt have adversely impacted agricultural productivity. Not surprisingly, farming in these parts presents a challenge.
There are other solutions, too. “In Haryana, we have several salt pans which are lying unused, where salt harvesting used to take place earlier. These areas can be developed into thick forests now,” suggests Tyagi.
According to the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB), at a number of places in the south part of the state, the electrical conductivity (EC) value of the groundwater has been found to be more than 10,000 microsiemens per centimetre (μmhos/cm), over six times the permissible limit at which water can be safely consumed (the EC value is the concentration of salt in the groundwater). Incidentally, back in 2004, the World Health Organisation (WHO) had prescribed that the most desired EC level for drinking water was 1,500 μmhos/cm.
And as per the CGWB, high salinity is one of the major quality issues in the above mentioned areas, making the water unfit for human consumption and for irrigation. Over 30% of the groundwater in Gurugram, Bhiwani, Rohtak, Kaithal, Mahendragarh and Sonepat districts has an EC above 3,000 μmhos/cm. Now, finally, there is a solution in sight.



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