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Country Water Actions

Country water actions are stories that showcase water reforms undertaken by individuals, communities, organizations, and governments in Asia-Pacific countries and elsewhere.

Pakistan: Irrigation Links Government with Farmers


November 2007

Improved watercourses results in better irrigation; better irrigation brings about greater agricultural production; increased agricultural productivity means higher incomes and a prospering economy. This is the logic followed by a joint project between farmers in Pakistan and the government. Little do they know that their biggest gain would be their lifetime partnership. UPGRADING THE KHALA Mansha, a middleaged farmer in Keeranwala village, Punjab province, surveys his ready-toharvest rice crops with delight and is optimistic about the next wheat crop to be sown after the rice harvest in midNovember. It should be more than 50 maund (1,866 kilograms), as against 28 maund (1,045 kg) the previous year, said the hopeful Mansha, whose optimism stems from the ample supply of water coming from a brick-lined water channel that flows directly to his farm, ensuring minimum losses and increased water availability. The watercourse, called khala in the local Punjabi language, covers some 116 hectares of land owned by Mansha and 57 other farmers in Keeranwala, some 200 kilometers south of the Pakistani capital Islamabad. It was upgraded under the National Program for the Improvement of Watercourses (NPIW) in May 2007, through a joint project of the government and the farmers themselves. Under the NPIW, two types of watercourses are now being improved. One type includes watercourses emanating from canal tributaries that were dug manually by farmers for decades. They are now are being lined with bricks and cement. The second type includes those taking water from tube wells and motor pumps and are mostly in the barani or rain-fed regions. They are being replaced by underground polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes. Water availability has since increased by around 60 percent and I am pleased to contribute in the refurbishment of the watercourse, Mansha says. PAKISTANS WATERCOURSES Pakistan has one of the worlds largest gravity-flow irrigation systems, with three reservoirs, 19 barrages, 12 river interlinking canals, and 59,200 kilometers of distribution canals. More than 160,000 watercourses comprise the distribution network that takes water directly to the farms.

More than half of these watercourses are in Punjabthe largest of the countrys four provinces and the biggest agricultural producer. The system commands a land area of 14.3 million hectares, making it the backbone of Pakistans agriculture and contributes one-fourth of countrys total gross domestic product (GDP). While the three big reservoirs store some 20 million-acre feet (MAF) of water, farmers across the country also pump an estimated 40 MAF of groundwater to irrigate their lands. However, after decades of use, the countrys water network is on the decline. The dams are losing storage capacity due to siltation and huge volumes of water seep through canals in poor condition, wasting an estimated two-thirds of total available water every year. FINANCING IRRIGATION Since the NPIW started in 2004, a total of 40,300 watercourses out of a targeted 87,000 have been improved as of 30 June this year. There are 18,000 more watercourses targeted for improvement during the fiscal year 2007. The total estimated cost of the program, which seeks to address the decay in the irrigation network, is over 66 billion rupees (US$1.1 billion). Under the provisions of the federally-funded NPIW, the government contributes 80 percent of the cost while the farmers share the remaining 20 percent. Amounts allocated by the federal government go to provinces, which then pass the money on to the district governments. NPIW is one of the most successful programs in the history of our country, explains Muhammad Anwar, Gujrat district officer for On-Farm Water Management, a government project that aims to develop land productivity and efficient use of water with the farmers active involvement. In 2006-2007, Anwars district was given a target to smarten up 40 watercourses. His team exceeded its target by more than 50 percent, completing improvement work on 61 units.

FARMERS PARTICIPATION To qualify for NPIW resources, at least five farmers irrigating a minimum of five acres need to form a Water Users Association (WUA). Once their application for resources to improve watercourses is approved, independent consultants then approve the design prepared by the On-Farm Water Management Department. The WUA then constitutes an executive committee that coordinates with government officials and executes the project after the design is approved. Subsequently, the governments share of financial support is released in three installments, and after the WUA puts its 20 percent share in a designated bank account. However, Anwar says that the On-Farm Water Management Project is now releasing up to 70 percent of funds in the first installment to facilitate faster implementation. Because the farmers themselves are in charge of purchasing the material for upgrading the watercourses, there are significant cost savings. These savings are then used to fund the improvement of more watercourses beyond the quota.

MORE IMPORTANT GAINS Since the NPIW, farmers say there have been substantial savings on water after their local water systems were given a new lease on life. Some add that their crop production has risen by 30 to 50 percent. A few kilometers from Manshas farm in Chak Pearana village, young farmer Mian Irfan narrates another benefit that comes with brick-lining the watercourse coming from his tube well. I can irrigate the same land in only 45 minutes, when it used to take me three hours to do so, he points out. Electricity cost to run the tube well has also been reduced significantly. Mohammad Afzal Janjua, a local councilor in Sidh village of Kharian subdivision, says having his 1,400-feet long watercourse improved has made a huge difference. The underground pipe has reduced the time required to irrigate my land to one-fourth of what it used to be, he says. I now also provide water to my neighbors from my tube well. More than these practical benefits, however, what could be a more significant and meaningful reward for both farmers and government is the bridge between them created by the NPIW.

_____________________________ Based on the article of Irfan Shahzad, Asia Water Wire journalist *This article was first published online at ADB's Water for All website in November 2007: http://www.adb.org/water/actions/PAK/irrigation.asp. The Country Water Action series was developed to showcase reforms and good practices in the water sector undertaken by ADBs member countries. It offers a mix of experience and insights from projects funded by ADB and those undertaken directly by civil society, local governments, the private sector, media, and the academe. The Country Water Actions are regularly featured in ADBs Water for All News, which covers water sector developments in the Asia and Pacific region.