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Land & Water Resources Potential

Pakistan has not done so well in improving its social indicators in terms of the internationally established norms of literacy, primary health, life expectancy and the like. At the same time, there is hardly any doubt regarding the tremendous potential for exploitation to improve yields of food crops, but the recent trends in declining of yields are most disconcerting.

Furthermore, the single-track policies of reducing fertility rates and improving other social indicators through artificial interventionist approach which is not at all in keeping with our cultural heritage and accompanied with scores of undesirable social evils can hardly be justified. A more meaningful approach is to explore the potential of our land and water resources. There is an urgent need for a reordering of priorities regarding production and welfare. Highest priority must be accorded to increasing food crop yields by eradication of wastage of land and water resources which is taking place. Misguided public policy has led to worsening of trends in the form of imbalances of chemical fertilizers. It is reported that from 1950 to 1990 respectable rates of growth in two major food corps — wheat and rice — where achieved largely as a result of increase in yields. More recently, however, i.e. during the last decade, the yields of these two major food crops are reported stagnating. The increases in yield resulted from proper application of modem inputs like chemical fertilizers. The policies, regarding these inputs played a critical role and that stagnation in yields of the two food crops is the result of lack of proper policy. The fertilizer off-take which was only one-tenth of one million nutrient tons in mid-’60s, jumped to more than 2 million tons around 1980. More importantly, the ratio of nitrogenous to phosphatic fertilizer use was greatly improved from about 10:1 to 3:1 during the same period. This was a remarkable change although there still existed a large scope for more balancing in the above ratio for reaching optimal results in terms of crop yields. The Plan targets for achieving such results were fixed but of late, the NP ratio has started deteriorating, reportedly approaching 4:1, but the government is hardly doing anything to improve the situation. Press reports of large increases in the availability of urea from domestic production and imports while giving no incentive for use of phosphate and potash will surely worsen the situation further.

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Source: Poverty Alleviation in Pakistan: Present Scenario and Future Strategy, Mohibul Haq Sahibzada. Republished with permission.