Irrigation System and issues in Pakistan

‘Water is one of the rarest and the most precious sources in the world.  Pakistan is an agricultural country and its line depends on irrigation. With a prodigious Indus basin irrigation system, no one can overlook its usual and strategic importance.

Irrigation System and issues in Pakistan

Over 90% of country’s agriculture, which is a major chunk of GDP is dependent on irrigation system. Unluckily, irrigation system of Pakistan is in hot waters. In developing countries such as Pakistan agriculture sector is growing Apart from the natural course of rivers several man-made structures have been made over the years to make sure the availability of water as far as possible and there exists a complex and comprehensive irrigation system considered to be the one of the best designed in the history of mankind till now.

The chasm between the existence of a system and its efficient use is widening and its utility and productivity is in jeopardy. Agriculture like some of the countries in world is backbone of economy of Pakistan and irrigation system and is major and in some places the only source for agriculture.

Fortunately like gas oil and coal resources Pakistan is rich in fertile land and its irrigation system is considered as one of the world largest irrigation system including Indus River one of the longest Asia.

Some of major irrigation problems in Pakistan and proposed couple of solutions for these problems also what are the potential barriers and hindrances that preventing the authorities for having good healthy and sustainable irrigation system.

Although proposed solution have already applied somewhere but applying them in Pakistan having difficult geopolitical situation and complex bureaucratic problems is not easy. At least we need a practical solution to these problems as these problems  are directly related to agriculture system which drive Pakistan economy to ensure sustainable future of Pakistan        

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Irrigation system of Pakistan

There are multiple components of Irrigation system of Pakistan for example Rivers, canals barrages, head work’s, dams and tube wells (on smaller scale). Total agricultural land of Pakistan measured in 2017 by World Bank was 223850 sq.-which is fourth best in world, but unfortunately this area is shrinking because of several factor, for example mega migration to cities, housing societies, roads and highways, and lack of water for irrigation.

History of irrigation system of Pakistan which is the one of the biggest infrastructure accounting for several Billion USD, dates back to its birth, in 1947 when the Indian sub-continent was divided in to two independent states, like many issues it gave birth to water issue as well, till in 1960 with the international mediation both countries signed the “Indus Water Treaty”.

According to the terms of  treaty, India was given the full exclusive use of Eastern Rivers named as Sutlej, Bias and Ravi. And three Western rivers which are under the control of Pakistan are Jhelum, Indus and Chenab. Unfortunately it was signed back in 1960’s that India can water of Pakistani controlled Rivers for irrigation and power generation purposes as Pakistan is at downstream of these rivers. Since basin of biggest Pakistani controlled river is in India, so there is a chance that India effects on irrigation resources of Pakistan, as he did during war time in 1965 and 1971.

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Irrigation sources in Pakistan

There are two main sources of water in Pakistan

Surface water

Indus river is major source of water in Pakistan which is subdivided into its branches downstream known as Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej also Kabul River.165 Bm3 water comes from, Jhelum, Indus and Chenab, while Beas, Ravi, and Sutlej adds 10 Bm3 per year. Unfortunately   around 12 Bm3 is wasted in system, which may include seepage and theft etc.

About 70% of total water(125/175 Bm3) consumed for irrigation, and rest of water around 35 Bm3 in ‘wasted’ in to Arabian Sea .Due to huge variation in rainfall duration intensity and time, which observed in monsoon period, it is extremely difficult to plan and mange for flood and irrigation of healthy and unhealthy rivers.  One of the sources of refill is the hill fast-moving water, also known as ‘torrent’. There are about 14 different ‘hilly-torrents’ having total capacity of 23436.15 Bm3

Ground water

Due to huge variation in rainfall duration intensity and time, which observed in monsoon period, it is extremely difficult to plan and mange for flood and irrigation of healthy and unhealthy rivers.  One of the sources of refill is the hill fast-moving water, also known as ‘torrent’. There are about 14 different ‘hilly-torrents’ having total capacity of 23436.15 Bm3

key Facts

No of Major Reservoir

3

No of Headwork’s

16

No of Dams

2

No of interlink canals

12

No of canal system

44

No of watercourses

107,ooo

Length of canals

56,073 km

Length of water courses

1.6 million km

Irrigated area

36 million acre

Average escaped to the sea

39.4 MAF

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Problems and issues of irrigation system in Pakistan

Water economy is a term used in the Pakistan agriculture as the crops are highly dependent on water and for the development and proper functionality of this prodigious system, maintenance of existing infrastructure and new construction is undoubtedly the need of the hour. In Pakistan capital cost for the development of irrigation system is recovered from the user.

Operation and maintenance charged are linked to the water charges collected by the provincial governments but due to the incompetence and malpractices of the government institutions they are not enough for what is required. The short fall in funds is above 30% for each province. Provincial governments and federal institutions are also responsible for the operational and maintenance.

  • Improvement and up gradation
  • Salinity and water logging issues
  • Irrigation system turning during rainy weather
  • water pressure issues
  • over watering and under watering
  • water runoff and polling
  • Over exploitation of fresh ground water
  • Insufficient cost recovery
  • Government policy
  • Wara bandi system
  • Water losses in field
  • Evaporation losses
Jaffar Iqbal
Author: Jaffar Iqbal

Welcome! I am passionate about Agriculture and food security, Graduated in Agriculture. I love to work in the field of Agronomy and sustainable farming.

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Jaffar Iqbal

Welcome! I am passionate about Agriculture and food security, Graduated in Agriculture. I love to work in the field of Agronomy and sustainable farming.

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