Quetta: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the provincial government of Balochistan signed on Saturday the project agreement of a $107 million loan and grants to improve irrigation infrastructure and water resource management in Balochistan, Pakistan’s largest yet economically poor province.
Chief Minister of Balochistan, Jam Kamal Khan, witnessed signing of the project agreement by Additional Chief Secretary for Development, Sajjad Ahmed Bhutta and ADB Country Director for Pakistan Ms. Xiaohong Yang in Quetta, said a statement issued here.
“Agriculture remains the backbone of Balochistan’s economy,” said Ms. Yang. “This project will introduce efficient water usage systems and practices to help farmers improve productivity and farm incomes.
“Agriculture accounts for almost two-thirds of Balochistan’s economic output and employs 60% of the province’s 13 million population, but frequent drought and poor water management has put the industry, and those who rely on it, at risk.
Poverty rates in the province almost double the national average.
The Balochistan Water Resources Development Sector Project will focus on improving irrigation infrastructure and water resource management in the Zhob and Mula river basins.
The two rivers irrigate vast areas of farm land in Balochistan. Among the infrastructure that will be upgraded or built for the project are watershed protection, dam and command area able to hold 36 million cubic meters of water; 276 kilometers of irrigation channels and drainage canals; and facilities that will make it easier for people, especially women, to access water for domestic use.
In total, about 16,592 hectares (ha) of land will be added or improved for irrigation. The project will protect watersheds through extensive land and water conservation efforts, including planting trees on 4,145 ha of barren land to combat soil erosion.
Its output includes pilot testing of technologies like solar-powered drip irrigation systems on 130 ha of agricultural land, improving crop yields and water usage on 160 fruit and vegetable farms, and demonstrating high-value agriculture development.
“The project will also establish a water resources information system that will use high-level technology such as satellite and remote sensing to conduct river basin modeling and identify degraded land for rehabilitation,” said Ms.Yang.
ADB will also administer two grants for the project, including $3 million from the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction and $2 million from the High-Level Technology Fund.
In addition, a $2 million technical assistance will help Balochistan’s provincial government improve its institutional capacity to address the risks and potential impact of climate change in the agriculture sector, as well as build a climate-resilient and sustainable water resources management mechanism in the province.
ADB is committed to achieving a prosperous, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable Asia and the Pacific, while sustaining its efforts to eradicate extreme poverty.