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Agri Overview

Revamping the irrigation system
By Rasheed Channa

The painfully slow pace of the Rs13 billion President's package for revamping/rehabilitation of irrigation and drainage system indicates that the scheme has failed to take off in a meaningful way.

Revamping the irrigation system Not only was the project delayed for two years but keeping in view the snail-pace of its execution, the federal government has started trimming its allocation.

A key reason behind delay is the frequent changes of secretaries in irrigation and power department and recent induction of a non-technical secretary.

Insiders said the frequent changes are contrary to an understanding with the World Bank in which it was agreed that the key position officers such as secretaries and project directors would be allowed to complete their tenure of three years as already prescribed by Sindh Government Rules of Business.

In less than three years, due to political expediency, eight secretaries in the irrigation department have been changed. Thesee , Idrees Rajput, Hifzur Rehman, Mir Mohammed Parihyar, Ashiq Memon, Hashim Leghari, Imtiaz Kazi, Bashir Dahar and now Ashfaq Memon, a non-technical DMG officer has been installed, giving an average tenure of 4.5 months to each official.

The irrigation department started working on the project from March 27, 2002. After the approval of the project at different foras, the project was approved by ECNEC at Rs12,963bn on August 11, 2003.

The federal government allocated Rs1000 million for the project in last fiscal and disbursed Rs400 million. The work was not started and the funds lapsed. The allocation for the current financial year was reduced to Rs500 million because of irrigation department's dwindling capacity to take up mega projects.

A consultant has been engaged by the department from January 16, 2004 and the project is scheduled to be completed in 2007. The project announced in 2001 has been taken up in 2004. The financial scope and the phasing of the project was made in such a way that Rs2,000 million were allocated in 2001-02 and Rs2,294 million in 2002-03.

Detailed estimates of the project are, Guddu barrage Rs526.039million, Sukkur barrage Rs7,397.189 million, Kotri barrage Rs1,694.199 million, SIDA (Nara canal) Rs1,103 million, SIDA (Ghotki tubewells) Rs149.857 million, irrigation development Rs1,091.353 million, supervising consultants Rs119.618 million, physical contingencies Rs239.236million and earth-moving machinery Rs642 million.

Since 1932 no major revamping of the irrigation system has taken place. It is for the first time that a Rs12.9 billion revamping of irrigation system project was announced.

Sindh irrigation system comprises canals off-taking from three barrages, Guddu, Sukkur and Kotri. The 14 major canals have command area of 13.238 million acres with designed capacity of 125,654 cusecs and actual capacity of 150,931 cusecs. The total length of canals, including distributaries and minors is 13,335 miles.

The irrigation system is in a dilapidated condition. Due to inadequate water availability in the early part of Kharif season, the farmers are compelled to resort to rice cultivation in place of designed dry crop pattern especially in the command of North-Western Canal and Dadu Canal of Sukkur Barrage.

In the Rohri Canal and Nara canal commands there was an increase in garden areas. Apart from it there was pressure to increase crop acreage to meet the ever-growing demand for food and fodder due to increasing population pressure. These factors compelled the operating staff to manage water flows higher than designed discharge on a continuous basis, which has put the infrastructure under lot of stress and strain. The canal prism has widened weakening the canal banks. The regulators and bridges have sustained damages.

The Kotri Barrage has been affected by coastal rain-storms on several occasions in the past, which has caused extensive damages to the irrigation and drainage system, thus reducing the operational efficiency.

Any canal irrigation system leads to a rise in the ground water due to percolation of water from the irrigation network and copious irrigation doses in the improperly developed cultivated area. It is, therefore, essential that simultaneous to the implementing of an irrigation scheme, a drainage scheme for the canal-irrigated area must be planned and implemented as early as possible.

Drainage system in Sindh comprises of drains spreading over an area of 3,811 miles and 5,835 SCARP tube wells. The irrigation and drainage system is not performing well because of deferred maintenance.

Defects and deficiencies in question cause regular breaches and water shortage in the system which not only affects agro-economy in general but becomes a main reason of tribal feuds and unnecessarily involve concerned people in police cases and litigation.

Senior irrigation and agriculture experts apprised Chief Executive General Pervez Musharraf a number of times about the plight of irrigation system. During his visit to Sindh in 2001, he directed the irrigation department to prepare a Rs14bn project for revamping and rehabilitation of irrigation system.

The revamping/ rehabilitation programme has two parts, first part relates to the irrigation network and the other one to the development of drainage infrastructure.

The project includes strengthening of 8,082 kilometres banks of canals and drains, 3,685 canals de-silting, 380km stone-pitching in canal prism, re-modelling of 241 regulators, rehabilitation of 201 bridges, rehabilitation of 11,725 modules, revamping of 1,905 tube-wells and re-sectioning of 568KM surface drains.

This infrastructure can be divided in three parts, 1,905 tube-wells repair and replacement of pumping stations and re-sectioning of 568 kilometres surface drains, including open and tiled drains.

Of the tube-wells to repaired \ replaced, 395 are in Naushehro Feroze, 397 in Khairpur, 256 in Sukkur and 548 in Ghotki. About 211 transformers are out of order which need to be replaced. Some 98 pumping stations, 26 surface drains, 642 operator quarters and 346 tube-well rooms need to be repaired.

The depleted irrigation network has reduced the area of cultivation. In 1995-96, the recorded official figure for cultivation was 13.34 million acres. The average of last four years, 1996-97 to 1999-2000, is 8.52 million acres. This shows a reduction of 36 percent over 1995-96 recorded figures. The loss in cultivated area can be re-coped by implementing of the revamping project and subsequently with better regulation and water management.

Courtesy: The DAWN;

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