ILWS - Charles Sturt University
ILWS - Charles Sturt University

Living with salinity in the Indus Basin: SRA 2 (2019)


Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), $88,000


Dr Michael Mitchell, Dr Ed Barrett-Lennard (Murdoch University), Associate Professor Catherine Allan, Dr Jay Punthakey (Adjunct)

Research Theme

Sustainable Development (International)


Salt is historically part of the landscape of Pakistan. Modifications to the landscape and increased water use for agriculture is adding over 14.4 million tonnes of extra salt every year to the Indus Basin’s soil profile. The area being impacted is increasing annually by an estimated 20,000 to 40,000 ha. Salinisation and sodification of surface soils and waterlogging threaten agricultural production, resulting in higher rates of impoverishment for communities living in salinity affected areas in the Indus Basin.

This project built on the previous work (including the creation of a well-regarded network of experts) done for the initial scoping project Improving salinity and agricultural water management in the Indus Basin of Pakistan conducted in 2017 as well as three related activities that further informed the project’s re-development. These were to observe and learn from the mid-term reviews of two related projects in Bangladesh; a workshop in Faisalabad in September 2018 which coincided with the annual planning meeting of all ACIAR projects in Pakistan; and a series of meetings in October 2018 at ACIAR with other Australian-based researchers.

This second scoping project developed a proposal for a series of projects to be delivered over a 10 year time frame.

Key activities were:

  • A workshop in Karachi on 10 July 2019 to consolidate the Impact Pathways Analysis for the project that had been undertaken at a prior workshop in 2018, with a particular focus on identifying a set of research activities that will deliver intended outputs and outcomes.
  • A field trip on 11 July 2019 to two accessible “bright spot” communities in the delta region of the Indus basin; i.e. communities nominated by project partners whose capacity to sustain and perhaps enhance their livelihoods through active adaptation could provide the project with learning and engagement opportunities.
  • A workshop at MUET in Jamshoro on 12 July 2019 to explore opportunities with representatives of local farming communities and supporting organisations for improved gender inclusion in project design, delivery and outcomes.
  • A visit to Australia from 11 to 24 August 2019 by selected representatives of the SRA’s Pakistan-based partners, involving meetings with the Murray-Darling Basin Authority, ACIAR, CSIRO, as well as several Landcare, regional NRM and irrigation management organisations.
  • A workshop on 20-21 August 2019 to develop a systems analysis foundation for the project proposal.
    A workshop on 22-23 August 2019 to explore ways to assist transdisciplinary project development.

These activities have ensured those Pakistan partners who are championing the proposed project have a high level of ownership of, and contribution to, its design. Key individuals had the opportunity to engage with internationally renowned experts in complexity and
transdisciplinary action, and to collaboratively consider best strategies to apply this experiential knowledge to project design.

Collaborating partners were:

  • Dr Robyn Johnston, (ACIAR)
  • Dr Kazmi Munawar, (ACIAR)
  • Dr Sandra Heaney-Mustafa, University of Canberra (UC)
  • Dr Mobin Ahmad, (CSIRO)

In-country collaborating partners were:

  • Dr Bakhshal Lashari, Director, Center for Advanced Studies in Water, Mehran University of Engineering and Technology (MUET)
  • Dr Abdul Latif Qureshi (MUET)
  • Dr Altaf Ali Siyal (MUET)
  • Dr Irfan Ahmed Baig, Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences & Humanities, Muhammad Nawaz Shareef University of Agriculture (MNSUAM)
  • Dr Tanveer ul Haq, (MNSUAM)
  • Dr Iftikhar Hussain, Chairman, Society of Facilitators and Trainers (SOFT)
  • Ms Fozia Memon (SOFT)
  • Mr Mahmood Akhtar, Cheema (IUCN)

ACIAR project webpage


Mitchell, M., Allan, C., Punthakey, J., Barrett-Lennard, E., Heaney-Mustafa, S., Lashari, B., Baig, I. & Hussain, I. (2020) Living with Salinity in the Indus Basin: SRA 2 Final Report. Prepared for Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research. PDF


The  outcomes of this project were:

  • Finalisation of a revised Phase 1 proposal on salinity in the Indus Basin
  • An example of how to frame a staged research program involving a series of projects over 10 years.


Dr Michael Mitchell,
Albury-Wodonga Campus

July 2021