ISLAMABAD/karachi - The Rabi season’s crops are likely to face about 45 percent water shortage and Indus River System Authority (IRSA) had asked the provincial governments to make comprehensive strategy to avoid major losses to upcoming crops.

“As per preliminary analysis of data, it is anticipated that the deficit may result in 35-45pc shortfall during the forthcoming Rabi season 2018-19”, an Indus River System Authority (IRSA) source said.

The Rabi season begins in October-December and ends in April-May. Wheat is the largest crop in Rabi season. Gram, lentil, tobacco, rapeseed, barley and mustard are some of the other crops.

The official of the authority said that Tarbela Dam had now achieved maximum conservation level of 1,150 feet and prevailing temperatures in the catchment areas currently show that the drawdown for irrigation during the current Kharif season would mostly remain contained.

The total storage in reservoirs currently stood at about 9.255 million acre feet (MAF), 32.4pc short of its total capacity, which is 13.681 MAF.

The reserve last year at this stage was 12.08 MAF, almost 24pc lower.

The official of Water Resources Ministry said that the country was losing almost 50pc of its total water availability. He said that the country can store water for a maximum of 35-36 days which is way less than the rest of the world. Many countries can hold their reserves for 130 days. He said that India’s storage could last for about 320 days.

“With construction of Mohmand and Diamer Basha dams, water storage capacity of the country will increase from 37 days to 56 days,” he added. He said that the ministry had proposed construction of big, medium and small dams to meet the water and energy shortages.

BMP seeks control over

water intensive crops

The Businessmen Panel (BMP) of the Federation of Pakistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (FPCCI) has asked the government to take steps to control cultivation of water intensive sugarcane and rice crops to help avert looming water crisis. Secretary General (Federal) of the Businessmen Panel and a senior horticulturist, Ahmad Jawad Monday said a prudent approach was urgently needed to conserve water.

"The essential commodity is fast shrinking and it is crucial that we may be able to retain adequate stocks of it even before construction of Diamer Basha and Mohmand dams," he said.

Jawad, also the former chairman, standing committee on horticulture exports of the FPCCI mentioned that meteorological department has warned the nation of drought like conditions due to poor monsoon and snowfall this year.

Mangla reservoir could only be filled by less than fifty percent thus water shortages will occur during Rabi sowing season, therefore a judicious use of available water has to be ensured, Jawad emphasized.

He said the federal as well as provincial governments should join hands to rationalize the country's agriculture sector and diversify the cropping pattern immediately so as to save water till the completion of big and small reservoirs.

"It is vital that provincial governments must curtail the cultivation of sugarcane and rice crops as these consume too much water," he said emphasizing sincere and concerted efforts were needed to promote other cash crops that need less water during sowing /growing /maturing process.

Jawad further recommended laser levelling of lands under cultivation and turning drip irrigation and sprinklers system mandatory instead of centuries old flood irrigation system.

"Flood irrigation is not only practiced to grow crops but also to water fruit orchards," he lamented and urged provincial governments to come forward with necessary legislation so as to curtail the trend. Jawad further pointed out that Pakistan's canal system was worth more than $30 billion but at the same time "abayna" (price of water) from farmers is very minimal.

"The Irrigation departments must raise 'abayna' rates so that worn out canal system is rehabilitated for judicious use of this precious resource," he said.

The horticulturist regretted that the country was yet to formulate water pricing whereas all other developing countries have water pricing mechanism.

To a query, he said that currently all industrial units, including mineral water companies in Pakistan could be found using water for free.

"The government must place a policy where mineral water companies pay the amount per litre while pumping the underground or surface water," he reiterated.

Jawad also stressed that provincial governments must focus on building new barrages and small dams/ponds to store flood/rain water for agriculture and domestic purposes.