KARACHI – A team of Pakistani scientists, belonging to Karachi University, has discovered the vital role of an alien plant of Prosopis Juliflora, which is called as Babbul in Urdu language, despite this complex plant has become a major factor for eliminating the habitat of many indigenous species at a catastrophic level.

The proper use of this plant as wood fuel can help Pakistani government to produce cheap energy, as thermal power generation can be run smartly with this fuel.

The Pakistani scientists, under the leadership of Prof Dr Jamil Hassan Kazmi, former chairman of Karachi University’s Department of Geography, have found the role of this unique plant species as friendly for the local eco-systems and indigenous human population of the rural areas of Pakistan.

Talking to The Nation, a famous senior scientist Prof Dr Jamil Hassan Kazmi said that Pakistan could easily overcome its energy crises by using wood of mesquite (Prosopis juliflora). Recently, the role of mesquite has been established to combat desertification and control of climate change.

He said that his team had conducted a research on this complex plant titled Ecological and Socio-economic Evaluation of the use of Prosopis juliflora for Bio-char Production in Pakistan. The title of the project was Drynet funded by the European Union and supported by The Global Mechanism, he said. He added that my researchers’ team comprises on Saima Shaikh, Umair Bin Zamir, Hina Zafar, Akhtar Rasool, Faiza Tariq, Ambreen Afzal and Tanveer Arif.

Prof Kazmi said that the said alien plant could be found everywhere in Pakistan especially in Sindh.

“As reported by experts, Prosopis juliflora is in IUCN’s new list of 100 world’s worst invasive alien species. With profound experience of people around the globe, it is almost impossible to terminate the growth of this plant, as it spreads widely in most of the arid and semi-arid areas of the world, especially in Southern Pakistan. The efforts to eradicate or control its dispersion are completely failed. Generally, perception of both public and governments about this plant is quite negative and its most often treated as an ‘evil plant’. On the contrary, it has been established from the recent literature that this species has been quite useful commercially as wood fuel in many areas of Southern Sindh of Pakistan. Beside its popular use as dune fixer, its products has been used extensively for various applications such as forage plant, gum, glucose, furniture, char-coal and bio-char around the world,” he added. 

Talking about the importance of the research, he said taht scientists around the globe would like to discover its beneficial role in local economies.

“In the context, the said study has evaluated the role of this unique plant species as a friendly species for the local eco-systems and indiginous human population of the rural areas of Pakistan. The main objective was to determine the potential of prosopis juliflora for the production of bio-char to minimize the affects of Desertification and Climatic Change,“ he said.

Talking about the imporance of Juliflora, he said taht tehre are some important products of Juliflora, which includes food, fooder, agriculture, feul, fiber and medicines.

Food: There are reports that P juliflora pods are used in preparing bread, sweets, syrup and coffee. The pods must be processed to improve the flavour. Sugars and sweeteners can be produced from the pods. Fooder: For dairy cows, the flour may make up 40-60 per cent of concentrate rations. In South Africa, it is fed unmixed to sheep. Ripe pods contain 12-14 per cent crude protein. The short-fibred parts are also suitable for pigs and poultry. Apiculture: This species is a major honey source in Bolivia, Jamaica, Pakistan, western Australia and elsewhere. In Sri Lanka, it is one of the most important species for bee forage due to its very copious nectar flow.

Fuel: The generally crooked stems and branches make good firewood and provide excellent charcoal. Charcoal from P juliflora wood is used extensively in the USA as barbecue fuel; about 30 per cent of the charcoal sold for this purpose originates from P juliflora from the Sonora Desert in northern Mexico. In Pakistan its charcoal has been extensively used in Kilns of poultry farms during winter season.

Fibre: There is a large potential for P juliflora as a source for fibre in the production of paper, paperboard and hardboard. Timber: Seasoned wood is used for fence posts, furniture, crafts and corrals. It is rarely used in construction, as most tree trunks are not long or straight enough. Gum or resin: P. Juliflora heartwood contains significant amounts of extractable polyphenolic compounds from which can be isolated a unique flavinol compound used in the formation of new phenol-formaldehyde polymeric resins. A reddish-amber gum, similar in properties to the gum arabic produced by Acacia senegal, often exudes from the stem and older branches. Tannin or dyestuff: Tannin or dyestuff can be extracted from P Juliflora but the yield is only about 10 per cent. Tannin could also be extracted as a byproduct when P juliflora wood is processed for other purposes, such as animal rations.

Medicine: P Juliflora syrup prepared from ground pods has various medicinal values. It is given to children showing weight deficiency or retardation in motor development, the syrup is believed to increase lactation. It is also used for preparing various medicinal syrups, particularly for expectorants. Tea made from P Juliflora is thought to be good for digestive disturbances and skin lesions, he said.