ISLAMABAD - Punjab has requested the federal government to extend World Bank's funded 'Punjab Irrigated Agriculture Productivity Improvement Programme Project' to fiscal year 2020-2021 with additional financing of $200 million for improving water productivity and greater agricultural output.

This was disclosed by an official of the Punjab government, who was talking to a selective group of journalists during the WB’s arranged visit to Chakwal. The visit had been arranged for the journalists to see by themselves the installed Drip and Sprinkler Irrigation systems

Director General Water Management Punjab informed the journalists that the systems had so far been installed over 20,000 acres of land, in 36 districts of the province, under the project, initiated in 2012.

He further informed that the WB had pledged to provide 60 percent funds ($250 million) of the project cost of $423 million, while the remaining 40 percent ($173 million) would be borne by the farmers, availing the project.

"The Punjab government has requested the federal government through Economic Affairs Division to extend the project till 2020-2021, which is going to expire in 2017," he explained.

He further added the WB had so far released $160 million, out of $250 million it promised for the project.

“The WB’s monetary assistance is aimed at getting maximum productivity by weaning farmers away from the traditional and wasteful flood irrigation to modern methods like drip and sprinkler irrigation systems, which in turn will encourage crop diversification,” the official elaborated.

He further said that Drip system was very successful, as it saved 50 percent water, 45 percent fertiliser and reduced 35 percent production cost.

Giving further details, the official said that Drip system enhanced the production of vegetable and fruits by 100 percent.

Although, farmers have termed this system a good step, but have also asked the government to make it easy for the benefits of small farmers.

They also demanded the government to provide subsidy to the growers and reduce the role of middleman in purchasing machinery and plants.

"I am quite satisfied with the Drip and Sprinkler Irrigation system, as it helps save water and fertiliser. I am hopeful that I will earn at least Rs 1.5 million, per acre of grapes, at the operating cost of 30 percent," said Mohammad Iqbal, an owner of grapes farm.

However, he asked the government to bring down the cost of the system, which, he said, was expensive for the small farmers. Another farmer, Mohammad Niaz, also termed it expensive; but he was happy with the results. "We are no more dependent on rains, as we easily manage water for our crops," he said.