LAHORE - Punjab's Irrigation system, which is one of the largest contiguous systems in the world, is currently facing major irrigation and drainage challenges with profound social, economic and environmental implications. In order to address these challenges, government has developed a vision and strategy to provide adequate, equitable and reliable water supplies to farmers and other users. This was stated by Senior Minister Punjab/ Minister for Irrigation & Power, Raja Riaz Ahmad while delivering his key-note address at the inaugurating session of the workshop on "Assessing the impact of physical and management interventions on irrigation system performance in Punjab", organized by International Water Management Institute (IWMI) in collaboration with Punjab Irrigation & Power Department here Mondat. Riaz Ahmad Khan Advisor Ministry of Water and Power, Abdul Hakeem Khan Head IWMI Pakistan, Dr. Charlotte de Fraiture Senior Researcher IWMI Colombo, Chief Engineers and senior officers of the Irrigation Department also attended the workshop. He added that the irrigation sector has critical importance for the economy of Punjab. "Agriculture contributes 20 percent to Punjab's GDP and provides employment to more than 45% of the labor force". Over 90 percent of Punjab's agricultural production comes from about 8.4 million hectares of irrigated lands, he told.   Worldwide demand for water is increasing in all its uses due to increasing population, urbanization, increasing demand for food, industrial growth and overall expansion in economic activities, he pointed out. This is happening at times when water scarcity is also on the rise due to global warming and prolonged droughts are becoming common phenomena. "All these factors are adding tremendous pressure on the sustainability of water resources". In view of the crucial importance of water for sustainable socio-economic development and to meet the emerging challenges of the new millennium,  government is giving high priority to the water resources' development and management, both at the national as well as the provincial level. The vision of government is focused on providing food, fiber and shelter to the poor and the less privileged segments of our society. "It is my conviction that we can achieve this objective through holistic initiatives and multi-sectoral improvements". Toward this end, government is undertaking major initiatives which include phased rehabilitation and up-gradation of our age-old barrages and canal systems, increased financial allocations for maintenance and repair works of canals in order to sustain the improvements, installation and calibration of gauges and real time monitoring of the system, placing the daily discharge data of all the channels on website as well as setting up a system of complaints monitoring and their redressal, initiation of activities for groundwater management & water quality monitoring and participatory irrigation management by involving farmers in the management of irrigation system. For this purpose, 284 Farmer Organizations have been established, he told. Irrigation department will spend Rs. 11.3 billion on different developmental activities during this fiscal year. Raja Riaz further added that in order to strategize and streamline the implementation process of reforms, the impact analysis of these initiatives is extremely important. This is also important from the viewpoint of evaluating the effectiveness of various interventions in order to make the needed course corrections for optimizing the benefits of reforms process and to ensure that the benefits reach out to the grass root level, he concluded. Dr. Charlotte de Fraiture, Senior Researcher IWMI and many other speakers also spoke on the occasion and presented their deliberations.