The government of Sindh has started rehabilitation work on Guddu Barrage with the support of World Bank; later on it would do the same on Sukkur Barrage, said an official on Tuesday.

“We have started working on the rehabilitation of Guddu Barrage with the help of World Bank then we will come to Sukkur Barrage, improvement at canals and lining of small distributaries as well,” said Syed Zaheer Hyder Shah, Secretary, Sindh Irrigation and Drainage Authority (SIDA). He was addressing at Provincial Water Conference organised by Indus Consortium with collaboration of Oxfam.

Shah said SIDA and growers were working together for the improvement of the water usage system. Government of Sindh and irrigation department was fully aware of issues of the growers. Further improvement was being carried out with the support of World Bank and Asian Development Bank.

He said capacity of the controversial drain Left Bank Outfall Drain (LBOD) was raised to 4,500 cusecs from 2,400 cusecs. He said they were working on climate change issues as well.

Mehmood Nawaz Shah, Secretary General Sindh Abadgar Board said there was no relevant data generated on irrigation in Sindh, where irrigation network was moving from bad to the worst. He said water theft issue was gone there were dacoits of water who were robbing water in the daylight. “There are issues with river basins of other countries as well,” he said.

He said during last 10 years, more sugar industries were developed in cotton producing areas. “It is not sustainable, as there is no water in those areas,” he said.

Dr Mubashir of Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi said Pakistan was a water scarce country where only 82 million people or 30 percent area had access to water and there was shortage in the rest of the country. Quoting media, he said, there was potential of using 139 million acre feet (maf) ground water through pumping and mixing with the surface water.

He said there was need to mega initiative and large reservoirs but there was a big dilemma on those issues. “We need efficient utilisation of water. Agriculture engineers have development machinery and we need to utilise it,” he said.

Nazeer Ahmed Memon, senior general manager transition SIDA, said water availability at Akram Wah had improved. “Some people who had migrated to other areas have come back to their areas after arrival of water,” he said. “Reform in water sector is considered too difficult as compared with tax reform and other types of reforms.”

Mustafa Talpur of Oxfam Asia said link of water with the politics need to be addressed. “Corporations are planning to control waters, forests and fisheries ponds and the local elite and global elite are in the connection. They are exploiting the systems,” he said.

He said rural Sindh and South Punjab’s economy was connected with the water only. Their development indicators are low. He said some people were creating pseudo water shortage and later were buying lands and lower rates. “There is land concentration in Sindh instead of distribution,” he said.

Professor Ismail Kumbhar, Agriculture University Tandojam, said there was big potential of rain harvesting in Sindh by recharging the underground water. “Lakes can also be filled with rain water, which can be used for agriculture purpose later on,” he said. He said 80 to 90 percent groundwater of Sindh has been polluted and contaminated. There should be reuse of saline water.

Dr Bakhshal Lashari, Head of Center for Advanced Studies in Water, Mehran University of Engineering and Technology Jamshoro, said when they listened to the engineers they were told all was well, but when we listened farmers they got to know that tail-enders were not getting the water. “May be we are not producing such engineers and experts, so we are facing such issues,” he said.