Postcards from the Field

--Field Work / Field Talk--

To: The Readers of 21COE Project Web Site stamp
"The Rich Munificence of the Indus River"

Here are some recollections of Faisalabad, Pakistan, in the summer of 2001. Faisalabad is the second biggest city of the Punjab Province, originally grew as a center for the collection of agricultural products. I visited the city since I wanted to investigate the state of salt damage (salinity and waterlogging) there. Mr. Yasuno, a specialist in agriculture and the founder of an NGO devoted to measures against salt damage, introduced me to his colleague Mr. Amjad, and got Mr. Amjad to show me around.

Put simply, salt damage refers to the condition where salt is accumulated on the surface of the ground, to the extent that crop cultivation becomes impossible. When irrigation channels are badly maintained, the water in them seeps away. The level of underground water then rises, and salt is brought to the surface, where it accumulates. Mr. Amjad showed me some really broad expanses of cultivated land badly affected by salt damage, and from this I was able to appreciate the seriousness of this problem for farming in Pakistan.

But what struck me more than anything else on this occasion was the rich munificence of the Indus River. The photograph shows an irrigation canal which draws water from the Indus. To a Japanese observer, this might seem a large and splendid waterway, but within the Indus irrigation system, the canal in the photograph is simply one of many minor terminal channels, located towards the extremities of the complex hierarchy of irrigation canals fed by the distant river. In the countryside surrounding this minor canal, fields of wheat and cotton stretch as far as the eye can see. Water buffalo bathe at their leisure in the canal. Camels are used for the transportation of goods. As one would expect, sheep and goats can also be seen here and there. A great green landscape, its length and breadth criss-crossed by canals such as this one: this is Punjab.

What with air raids in Afghanistan, and tension along the India-Pakistan border, mention of Pakistan these days conjures up the image of a "dangerous place." But whenever I go to Pakistan, I always think, "My goodness, this is a well-endowed land." The delight of doing research there is really feeling the nature of the endowment.

From: NEJIMA Susumu (Division of Southeast Asian Area Studies)
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