WB downgrades Punjab agriculture productivity improvement programme progress



World Bank has downgraded the implementation progress rating of $423.5million Punjab Irrigated Agriculture Productivity Improvement Programme (Phase-I) following slow progress in installation of High Efficiency Irrigation System (HEIS).

The World Bank document available with Pakistan Today mentioned HEIS to install on 24,091 acres, while works are in progress on another 6,497 acres. “However this rate of installation is not enough to complete targets on time,” the document mentioned, adding that the project implementation team needs to immediately take steps to expedite the HEIS programme.

The document made Director General Agriculture (Water Management) responsible for all aspects of implementation, including technical, procurement, financial management and overseeing the technical assistance and training programme etc.

The project’s main objective is to improve productivity of water use in irrigated agriculture, which will be achieved through improved physical delivery efficiency and irrigation practices, crop diversification and effective application of inputs, translating into greater agricultural output per unit of water used. The project’s objectives would contribute to increased agricultural production, employment and incomes, higher living standards and positive environmental outcomes.

The main components of the project are the installation of $202.60 High Efficiency Irrigation Systems, improving community irrigation systems for spending $201.40million, $10.30million Improved Agriculture Technology, Supervision, Technical Assistance, Training and Strategic Studies

The on-farm water management function, that is water management below “mogha” (outlet from the distributaries canal and command area of community watercourse that is managed by farmers), has been devolved to the District Governments under the Devolution Plan of 2001.

Under this arrangement, an office of the District Officer (OFWM) has been setup in all 36 districts of the province for supervision of water management activities. The tehsil is the lowest tier of the administration where the office of Deputy District Officer (DDO, OFWM) carries out the execution of works through field staff comprising of: 1) Deputy District Officer and one water management officer; 2) two water management supervisors and support staff. Out of 133 tehsils in the province, offices of DDO (OFWM) have been established at 101 tehsil headquarters of which 83 are in irrigated area and 18 are in Barani (un-irrigated areas).

Irrigated agriculture is central to Pakistan’s economy because of its arid climate: the annual evaporation far exceeds the rainfall, making irrigation essential for growing crops. Pakistan relies on the largest contiguous irrigation system in the world, namely the Indus Basin Irrigation System (IBIS) to provide basic food security (90pc of food production and 25pc of the Gross Domestic Product).

Agriculture is the single most important source of employment and exports (two thirds of employment and 80pc of exports) and irrigation represents more than 95pc of the total consumptive use of water. However, this massive infrastructure is deteriorating and in need of modernisation along with reforms to improve the allocation of water as well as the efficiency of its use.

The key irrigation sector issues are: (i) low surface water delivery efficiency (only about 35-40pc from the canal head to crop root zone); (ii) water distribution inequities; (iii) lack of storage capacity and control structures; (iv) wasteful on-farm water use; (v) waterlogging and salinity; (vi) poor operation and maintenance (O&M), low cost recovery and constrained investment climate.

These issues are a manifestation of institutional weaknesses due to near exclusive control by the public sector entities characterised by the usual inefficiencies of centralised bureaucracies, lack of corporate skills and poor client (farmer) focus and accountability.