LAHORE: Punjab’s water resources have remained a neglected area for the government as it was unable to build a comprehensive management plan throughout its tenure, a highly placed official confirmed.
The indifference can be gauged from the fact that all projects were undertaken without taking into account the status of water resources. On the other hand, sources said that the government wanted to improve productivity of agriculture and livestock while announcing the Punjab Growth Strategy-2018 in 2013.
The documents available with Pakistan Today mention that government wanted to obtain results of agricultural productivity without accounting for water resources. The only area that the government focused on in terms of strategy was of developing better on-farm water management and that too with the existing Canal and Drainage Act of 1873.
Punjab Growth Strategy 2018 says that agriculture productivity will be increased via substantial improvements in the quality of agriculture research, developing better value chains by creating and preserving value at the farm level and improving connectivity of farms with markets; promoting high-value agriculture and better use of energy for agriculture; improving land resources and environment by tackling water logging, improving soil quality and mitigating the impact of climate change; increasing the area under cultivation; implementing critical regulatory and institutional changes to improve the business climate in agriculture and facilitate the private sector to establish agriculture markets.
However, on the practical side the government capped the allocation of Rs 41.031 billion in Annual Development Program (ADP) 2017-18. Besides, it has reduced the allocation by Rs 1.054 billion, for tasks that were primarily meant for repair & maintenance, building infrastructure and canals, drainage network, research, extension and field services to farmers and vocational training of the labour force.
ADP 2017-18 says that irrigated agriculture is the major determinant of the province’s economic growth potential as it accounts for 26 per cent of the GDP and caters for over 40 per cent of the available work force. However, the ADP adds that the system faces major sustainability challenges associated with serious environmental, social and economic implications.
“Deteriorated irrigation and drainage infrastructure with large O&M deficits has led to sub-optimal service delivery levels characterised by low water conveyance efficiencies and inequitable water deliveries, indicating huge investment needs to address deferred rehabilitation and maintenance backlogs currently estimated as Rs 170 billion” the ADP said, adding that development in the sector needs to embed cost-effective rehabilitation and modernisation of the infrastructure with holistic reforms, which aim at improved management and service delivery levels.
On the other hand, key irrigation sector issues keep on plaguing the sector with low surface water delivery efficiency (only about 35-40% from the canal head to crop root zone); water distribution inequities; lack of storage capacity and control structures; wasteful on-farm water use; waterlogging and salinity; poor operation and maintenance (O&M) and low cost recovery; and a 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 centralized bureaucracies, lack of corporate skills, poor farmer focus and accountability.