Scientific community fuses to stop the lumberjack axing NARC

BY Ahsan Jamil

THE SCIENTIFIC Research Centers in any country are nurseries not only to cultivate and realign the research realm but also to invigorate the quelling SandT sector by exciting, rejuvenating, and transpiring the scientific findings that further feature in form of products of common utility and industrial benefit. These centers are not only buildings made of bricks and mortar but stick majesty and royalty with them. National Agricultural Research Centre (NARC) is the crown bearer of agriculture research excellence that houses eminent scientists, research labs, well established facilities, state of the art equipment, experimental fields, gene library etc. but unfortunately an attempt has been made recently to ransack the prime institution NARC which has rumbled fury amongst scientific community in particular.

“A spiteful scheme has been designed whose first episode of practical is witnessed as Capital Development Authority (CDA) has moved summary to Prime Minister of Pakistan seeking approval for relocation of NARC”, said President, Pakistan Agricultural Research Council Scientists Association (PARSA), Muhammad Altaf Sher during a press conference held at Pakistan Academy of Sciences, Islamabad. The purpose of the press conference was to sensitize the policy makers about the ominous implications of relocation of NARC and show solidarity with the prime agricultural research organization.

During the press conference, scientists of Pakistan Academy of Sciences (PAS) avowed wave of support in favor of NARC and urged PM to disapprove the controversial summary. PAS President, Dr Anwar Nasim commended the role of NARC in national economy. He said, “NARC inscribes important state of the art research machinery, labs, research equipment and infrastructure established at hefty cost of trillions of rupees. The institutions are not built in blink of an eye and relocation of NARC is not acceptable for scientific community of Pakistan because it is by no means in national interest.” He also pledged full unconditional support to NARC and affirmed that PAS will oppose this atrocious plan of CDA at any frontier to overpower them.

CDA tends to capture the land of NARC and construct a housing scheme on that area. It is noteworthy that NARC land covers a vast area of approximate 1400 acres and in case of approval the whole infrastructure of the organization will be besieged that might take years for restoration besides inflicting copious commercial losses.

NARC sources also hint that real estate infiltrates present in power corridors are pulling the strings of CDA and are fully in connivance with it; expecting to reap populous monetary benefit.

The NARC administration, its parent organization PARC, scientific community, farmers, and relevant stakeholders have collectively formed allegiance to become an iron wall against the horrendous, imprudent, nefarious cronies of land mafia who are using CDA as proxy to wage confrontation with NARC.

“There are also practical obstacles in relocation of NARC. One such example is the Plant Genetic Resources Institute at the GeneBank of NARC. According to the officials, there are more than 35,000 Germplasms stored at prescribed conditions of specific temperature. There shifting can`t take place as it may cause heavy loss. This was only one example why NARC can`t be relocated. If we start to enlist all of them, we might be running short of paper”, said by Dr Zabta Khan Shinwari, Secretary General, PAS.

NARCs cutting edge RandD has international repute and NARC is closely linked with global institutions of SandT, like CIMMYT, IRRI, ICARDA, IFPRI, US-AID, USDA, JICA, ICIMOD, ACIAR, CIDA, FAO, GTZ. Also, NARC is hosting offices of CGIAR system (i.e., ICARDA, CIMMYT, IRRI, ILRI, IFPRI) and UN organizations.

The scientist community expressed grave concern at press conference while highlighting the role of NARC in national agricultural development that NARC mediated crop breeding germplasm from international organizations (like CIMMYT, IRRI, ICARDA) and its National Coordinated Programs on Wheat, Rice, Maize, Fodder, Pulses, Oilseeds and Sugar Crops have resulted in continuous evolution of new high-yielding stress-tolerant crop varieties in the country – leading to national food security; e.g., Through NARC led coordinated RandD in the country has resulted in development of 100 wheat varieties, thereby pre-empting rust epidemic since 1978. These rust resistant wheat varieties have contributed around Rs. 2000 billion since 1980.

The NARC scientists themselves have developed 44 crop varieties and 11 hybrids since 1990s. The National Reference Lab of Poultry Diseases has saved Rs. 90 billion (Rs. 10 billion / year) to poultry industry since 2006, by making Pakistan the only bird flu free country among SARC countries. NARC also developed and commercialized 35 new Farm Machines (for planting, harvesting, threshing, seed cleaning, conservation tillage, fruit picking, grading and processing operations) which are contributing more than Rs. 40 billion annually.

To foster the needs of honey production NARC introduced domesticating European bees, which have revolutionized honey production in Pakistan by enhancing honey production that worth Rs. 50 billion since 1980 for domestic and export market. Moreover, NARC developed Bioremediation of Sewage Water Technology is already being demonstrated at Rose and Jasmine Garden of Islamabad.

Agriculture contributes about 24 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the country and NARC is the paramount research center pillaring the agricultural sector. It is a premier organization which had played pivotal role in national development. NARC has accounted for agricultural research, resource building, imparting skills through trainings and hurting it is synonymous to allowing country`s economy to bleed without a shred of belief weaning away.

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