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[cdn-nucl-l] Nuclear Technology Transforms Pakistan's Salty Soils
Posted on the Environmental News Service on August 21, 2002 and at:
Nuclear technology at work for good.
Nuclear Technology Transforms Pakistan's Salty Soils
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, August 21, 2002 (ENS) - Every day 2,000 square
meters of farmland in Pakistan becomes desert - exacerbating large scale
poverty, as people lose the land they once farmed to erosion.
Now Pakistan is involved in a program to utilize nuclear technologies
from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to reverse this
desertification. The Pakistani government is spending US$3 million over
five years to transform its desert soils into food producing plains as
part of the National BioSaline Agriculture Programme.
This technique cultivates salt tolerant crops, trees and fodder grass
that are nourished by brackish water. Essentially it turns abandoned
land into economically valuable land.
The IAEA project on saline soils combines several nuclear techniques and
applications to provide key pieces of information to soil scientists,
farmers, land managers, and irrigation specialists.
Neutron moisture gauges, or probes, are used to monitor soil conditions
and irrigation practices. Irrigation can then be better managed - only
needed amounts of irrigated water are applied and salt accumulation is
Chemical elements called isotopes are used for water, soil, and plant
studies. Both stable and radioactive isotopes help scientists analyze
groundwater, providing information about the quality and quantity of
groundwater recharge and the sustainability of its use.
Other isotopes are used for labeling plants to trace the pathways of
elements such as carbon and nitrogen that circulate from the atmosphere
to plants to soil and again into the atmosphere.
Hundreds of Pakistani farmers are involved. "It gives the local people
an income," says Jorge Morales, IAEA Interregional Projects Manager.
"They are now able to grow crops, or grass to feed their livestock. In
some cases plants are grown to stop erosion," he said.
Barley, wild olive and wheat are among the salt resistant crops being
grown. "Only two percent of the many salt tolerant species we know about
are being used." Morales said.
Taken together, nuclear and isotopic techniques have become keys of
efforts to fight the environmental degradation of arable lands. "The
tools are safe, precise, affordable, and sometimes the only means to
study the complex interrelationships between soils, water, and plants,"
the IAEA says.
"Initially it is impossible to believe that anything could grow in such
wasteland. Not surprisingly the locals - who have been farming the land
for hundreds of years - do not believe it at first either. So
demonstration farm sites are set up to grow the salt tolerant species.
When they see the results, the neighboring farmers soon begin planting
these seeds," Morales said. The program will be extended to eight
districts in four provinces - covering 1.2 million acres of land.
The new commitment by the Pakistan government stemmed from an IAEA
program that supports nine countries to grow economically useful plants
in rugged terrain using saline groundwater and salt tolerant plants.
Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Jordan, Morocco, Syria, United Arab Emirates and
Tunisia are also participating in the program.
* * *
Canada's Anti-idling Campaign
MISSISSAUGA, Ontario, August 21, 2002 (ENS) - Drivers, Stop Your
Engines! This is the message of a new joint campaign offered by the
Canadian Petroleum Products Institute (CPPI) and the government of
Canada. To save fuel and cut air pollution and global warming, drivers
are reminded to turn off their cars if they are stopped and idling for
more than 10 seconds.
More than 50 Esso, Petro-Canada, Shell, Sunoco and Canadian Tire
gasoline stations are participating in the Mississauga, pilot campaign,
which uses posters, banners, window stickers, air fresheners and
information cards, as well as newspaper, transit shelter and radio
advertisements to remind drivers to turn off their engines.
The government of Canada is contributing C$150,000 to the campaign,
Industry Minister Allan Rock announced at the launch August 14.
"Research shows that letting your automobile engine run unnecessarily is
largely an unconscious act," said Alain Perez, CPPI president. "Schools,
car washes, convenience stores - there are many places where we let our
engines run unnecessarily. We want to build an awareness for drivers to
kick the idling habit."
The CPPI is an association of Canadian companies involved in the
refining, distribution and marketing of petroleum products. CPPI member
companies operate 17 refineries, representing 80 percent of Canadian
refining capacity, and supply 10,000 branded stations across Canada with
"At first glance, it may strike some as strange that gasoline companies
are advising motorists about how they can conserve fuel," Perez said.
"The CPPI's member companies are promoting the efficient use of fuels,
and other petroleum products, as part of a broad energy conservation
program. The program links consumer consumption, personal transportation
spending and cleaner air.
On average, Canadian drivers allow their engines to idle for five to 10
minutes a day. Service delivery vehicles spend 20 to 60 percent of their
time idling. A recent study shows that, in the peak of winter, Canadians
voluntarily idle their vehicles for a combined total of more than 75
million minutes a day - the equivalent of one vehicle idling for 144
Idling for more than 10 seconds costs more than turning off an engine
and restarting it. By avoiding idling their cars for just five minutes
each day of the year, Canadians could prevent more than one million
tonnes of carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas, and other toxic
substances from entering the atmosphere each year.
A car idling for a total of 10 minutes a day wastes more than 100 litres
(26.4 gallons) of gasoline over the course of a year. At 70 cents per
litre ($1.50 per gallon), that amounts to about C$70.00 (US$40)
Natural Resources Canada's Office of Energy Efficiency maintains an
Idle-Free Zone website, at http://oee.nrcan.gc.ca/autosmart/idling,
which supports community action against idling.
Copyright Environment News Service (ENS) 2002. All Rights Reserved.