A demonstration project has raised hopes of improving soil conditions and of growing crops using microbial technologies in Qatar, internationally-acclaimed environmentalist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr Rajendra K Pachauri has stated.
The New Delhi-based Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), of which Pachauri is the director-general, was involved in the demonstration project in Dukhan, where “hyper-saline waste land” of about 4,000sq m was made “productive” using microbial fertilisers a couple of years ago.
Pachauri told Gulf Times yesterday that within a year of launching the Dukhan demonstration project, the physical and chemical properties of the soil were “significantly altered” and a “better ecosystem” was created as evident by the presence of earthworms, various birds and insects.
“The reclamation practices adopted were simple and eco-friendly, which can be replicated in similar adverse environments in Qatar,” he said.
“Our demonstration has shown that in 18 months, one can bring about complete transformation of soil conditions and grow vegetables in Qatar with very little water,” said Pachauri, who was elected chairman of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a United Nations organ, which shared the Nobel Peace Prize with him in 2007.
He said the hyper-saline area of Dukhan had “extremely adverse” land and water conditions, making farming difficult. The soil salinity level is very high and accumulation of white salts on soil surface is a common phenomena.
Moreover, the country is experiencing severe water stress because of its depleting underground water resources. The country is dependent on import for meeting most of its food and fodder needs.
Also, the soil in the area, largely composed of loose sand and gravel, is highly vulnerable to wind erosion. A green cover developed on the surface with perennial trees would help keep the soil intact.
Pachauri suggested that Qatar make use of its vast land resources and condition them for supporting large-scale farming activity in a “cost-effective and sustainable” manner to achieve “self-sufficiency” in food.
“The region as a whole is going to face a food supply problem. Hence it makes sense to improve soil conditions in the country and make it ideal for farming. My request will be to convert oil wealth into soil health,” said Pachauri, who holds doctoral degrees in both economics and industrial engineering.
Pachauri hailed the conduct of the ongoing Arab Energy Conference in Doha, which he attended as a panelist, and said the focus on “environment and sustainable development” was timely and proper.
“These countries, which generate a lot of revenue from energy resources can use this for the betterment of their people in future. The impact of climate change on the region will be detrimental to human health. There will be more heat waves, higher temperatures, problems of sea level rising and also water shortage.
“These countries must also invest in renewable energy development. This is because the region has been blessed with a lot of sunshine and some areas have very good wind potential. I think it is important to think of the post-oil era, not because oil is going to become irrelevant.
“But the fact is that as the price of oil goes up there will be much better incentives for renewable sources of energy. This region can continue to remain self-sufficient in energy and possibly even supply to other parts of the world.”
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