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EDITORIAL: It seems no amount or manner of serious warnings can jolt relevant authorities into treating the country’s worsening water, especially irrigation, crisis.

Now, according to a report in this newspaper, it turns out that water problems are unlikely to end even after the Diamer-Bhasha Dam (DBD) is constructed because by that time water requirement for agriculture would have increased even further; primarily due to traditional ways of farming still practiced in the country. And water sector experts are convinced that the government needs to immediately divert resources for development of water reservoirs in addition to existing projects.

This is not the first time this red flag has been raised. Indeed, it’s also been reported that the government is moving very slowly to address this issue, especially since “we neither constructed water reservoirs during the last 40 years nor improved water using methods”, according to an official quoted in the report, and now it has become exceedingly difficult to raise the money needed for it in the time that is available.

The Economic Affairs Division (EAD) is stuck because major hydropower and transmission line projects face rupee-cover issues due to inadequate allocations in PSDP (Public Sector Development Programme) 2023-24. Since the IMF (International Monetary Fund) has made ‘cover’ mandatory for utilising foreign aid projects, and this is the first time all conditions are being followed to the letter, all EAD can do is request the finance division to do something about it.

However, even if such hurdles are miraculously overcome – which is very, very unlikely – the main problems will remain. For one thing, there has never been a serious effort to move on from ancient methods of irrigation to modern techniques and use of advanced agri technologies. Currently, 135 MAF surface water is available in the country, of which agriculture takes 102 MAF and the rest is lost to seepage and the sea. And of the 102 MAF, a good 94 percent goes directly into agriculture.

This percentage needs to be cut down – China reduced it to 60 percent from 90 percent. But that would require efficient irrigation practices that provinces have always failed to promote and/or implement. And now this task is infinitely more difficult, and must be accomplished in far less time, than a few years ago. The World Bank has extended loans for concrete canal deliveries, but there’s been no work on the ground, which perfectly sums up the magnitude of the crisis and the government’s non-serious attitude.

Even as the government runs from one donor and consortium to the next for more loans, and tries to launch bonds, it is important to change the way water is used and wasted. The sheer number of people associated with the agri sector and the proportion of families that depend on it means the government has allowed the kind of crisis to worsen that will rattle the whole country – dislocate people, squeeze the food basket, hurt production and export industries, etc.

This criminal negligence on the part of the state must end immediately.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2024

Comments

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Ghassan Shahzad Jan 13, 2024 12:01pm
Water pricing is necessary.
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KU Jan 13, 2024 12:02pm
We have approx.. 24 million hectares of agriculture zones and around 6 million hectares of these zones is rain fed. These different agriculture zones have its unique set of soil, water, climate/seasonal advantages and vice versa for a varied set of crops. The soils are maintained with fertilizers but increasingly scarce availability of water for irrigation or its wastage due to old water flooding techniques, and cost of inputs has become a serious issue. Our rain fed agri-zones suffer from ground water availability, lack of traditional rain patterns, soil structure, moisture retention, soil erosion and nutrient deficiencies. The solution obviously lies involving the farmers in policy making, new seed varieties, and affordable irrigation technology powered by solar energy. The developed world is doing this and encouraging the technology adoption as a priority because unlike our leaders, the fear of food insecurity and long term socio-economic misery and upheaval is very real.
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NXT Jan 14, 2024 10:04am
What government?
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M Mustajab Ali Jan 14, 2024 06:06pm
Only one multi-purpose dam may not cover the Agricultural, domestic and industrial needs of the country. We also require improvements in Irrigation system techniques and changing needs of safe drinking water supply to the urban and rural population.
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Javid Bahi Jan 15, 2024 01:04am
Why do I smell a boot cooking up here?
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Hamid Jan 15, 2024 05:49am
Study the impact of three gotges dam in chinese economy.
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Tariq Qurashi Jan 15, 2024 03:52pm
We need to line our canals and on-farm water courses with bricks, as well as introduce sprinkler and drip irrigation to save water. Our antiquated flood irrigation system wastes huge amounts of water.
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Muhammad Iqbal Jan 16, 2024 08:07am
Water must be treated as a commodity and priced accordingly.
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