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.
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
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
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
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
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
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