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    Agro-forestry needs to be promoted  to its full using the margins of the crop fields and barren lands using solar power lift irrigation system

    By Zahiruddin

    CHITRAL:  To contain the fast depletion of oak and deodar forest in Chitral, agro-forestry needs to be promoted  to its full using the margins of the crop fields and barren lands across the valley using the solar powered lift irrigation system.

    As per information gathered with IUCN, presently only three percent of total  land is utilized for agriculture purpose due to its mountainous nature while 62 percent is rangeland with sparse vegetation while 4.7 percent of the total area of the district is covered with forest which is shrinking  fast due to overexploitation.

    The persons concerned with conservation of nature apprehended that rapidly felling number of  deodar and oak trees is exposing the area to to land erosion, land sliding and mud flood over the last couple of decades.

    Sartaj Ahmed Khan, the chairman of the umbrella club of local support organizations across the valley, said that by increasing the area covering trees, the impending environmental disaster can be stopped from happening for which agro-forestry should be given attention on urgent basis.

    He said that the absence of monsoon rains and the acute shortage of irrigation water is the major reason due to which social forestry as well as raising fruit orchards in large scale has not been possible despite the availability of large tracts of lands.

    Mr. Khan said that the forest department  and a number of non-governmental organizations have experimented a number of alien plants  which are known for their  fast rate of growth  and had been found to possess the ability to withstand the shortage of water.

    Enumerating some of the species, he said that ailanthus and poplar can be grown in the rangeland with little efforts but with high rate of survival while the wood of poplar can be used for construction purpose and it can reduce the pressure on deodar trees.

    He  said that once a high density of such species of  trees resilient to water shortage and high growth rate are raised  in the pastures, the high risks of flash floods will also be reduced leading to soil conservation.

    Mr. Khan said that the fast developing solar energy technology can be best used in promoting agro-forestry in the barren tracts in the footholds of various mountains by drawing water from the river flowing in the lower altitudes.

    Ejaz Ahmed, an environmentalist working with government department, said that the large population of trees in the pastures will provide extra amount of fodder to the farmers promoting the strengthening of livestock sector which formed  a major source of household income while presently it is affected by the acute shortage of food.

    He added that the promotion of agro-forestry  will also bring hard cash to the farmers when they harvested it on commercial scale periodically while the process of promoting the agro-forestry can be carried out by social organization and community participation which works well in the area.


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