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Major reforms urged in irrigation infrastructure

LAHORE: Decaying irrigation infrastructure is the main cause of farmers’ plight in Punjab and the provincial government needs to carry out improvements and institutional reforms to set things right on urgent basis.
The consensus emerged at a dialogue jointly organised by Indus Consortium and Oxfam here on Tuesday prior to International Water Day that falls later this week. A policy draft, written after consultation with stakeholders was also presented on the occasion.
With three earth-fill dams, 19 barrages, 12 link canals, 43 irrigation canals, having a length of 58,500 kilometers and nearly 100,000 watercourses, Pakistan has a huge irrigation system. In spite of this, the available water supplies fall much short of country’s crop-water requirements. To overcome the problem, Pakistan must increase the available supply of irrigation water, raise its use efficiency and ensure equitable distribution.
In order to do that, the government needs to uphold the rule of law in water distribution because there are vast gaps between official and actual share-lists of irrigation. The policy draft also advocated increased participation of farmers in the decision-making and management of Punjab’s canal irrigation system.
Speakers also emphasised upon the Punjab government to come up with an inclusive provincial water policy so as to cope with current and upcoming water-related challenges.
Mushtaq Gaadi, a water expert and academician, said the empirical evidence suggested that water productivity of Punjab in comparison to other similar cases is very low. “The way forward to cope with this crisis and get prepared for future risks is through adopting a dialogic and democratic approach so that the representatives of all old and new actors should be able to participate, confront and forge consensus,” Gaadi suggested.
Afzal Toor, the Punjab Irrigation and Drainage Authority (PIDA) deputy general manager, was of the view that the irrigation network in Punjab was merely based on contiguous gravitational flow and irrigation supply is unreliable due to less storage even during peak demand. “More than 70 per cent of farmers have small land holdings and if one delinks water rights from land, the small farmers will not survive. Water charges (Abiyana) are not the water cost. Water is supplied to the farmers at a subsidised rate. Privatisation will change nomenclature, which will affect agriculture-based economy,” Toor stressed.
Iqbal Haider, Indus Consortium’s Executive Director, said Pakistan’s agriculture and in turn economy has tremendous potential to grow, adding that self-sufficiency in the agriculture sector could only be achieved by framing farmer-friendly policies. “Goal of national development and prosperity can only be achieved by taking concrete steps for the uplift of agriculture sector and facilitating farmers, especially the poor ones,” Iqbal added.
Curtsey: DAWN.COM , March 18th, 2015


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