LAHORE - The speakers, at a seminar on “Dominant Rehabilitation Problems of Old Irrigation Works”, have called for reforms in the irrigation management process.

The seminar, organized by Pakistan Engineering Congress, was addressed by PEC President Engineer Ch Ghulam Hussain and Engineer Muhammad Idris Rajput.

Speakers presented their recommendations for the new irrigation water policy briefs for Punjab and Sindh. The participants recommended to the provincial governments that the task of policy framing should be accomplished through integrated and participatory approach. They said that small tail-end farmers in Sindh are selling their agricultural lands to large landlords primarily due to shortage of water. It would further cause land concentration with few landlords and shrink the number of small landholders.

They highlighted depleting irrigation water resources due to the growing water demand from different sectors of the economy. They stressed the need for shifting focus from productivity per unit of land to per unit of water and linking it with economic diversity to change the current system.

The speakers said that due to lack of vision and continued confrontation between irrigation officials and farmers, the reform process in irrigation management had almost come to a halt.

PEC President Engineer Ghulam Hussain said the irrigation network in Punjab was merely supply-based on contiguous gravitational flow and the irrigation supply was unreliable due to less storage, even during peak demand. He added that adoption of water saving technology and high irrigation efficiency system needs to be promoted to minimise losses and enhancing water productivity in Punjab.

Engineer Idris Rajput, in his lecture, said the farmers at the tail-end were not aware of their water rights and how to ensure gauge measurement to ascertain their share. He said the adoption of water saving technology and high irrigation efficiency system should be promoted.

The speakers said that constructing new irrigation projects is a must to feed the growing population. He said irrigation and water policies in both provinces should be aligned with drainage, adding modern technologies should be adopted to enhance soil fertility.

The irrigation system of Pakistan is the largest integrated irrigation network in the world, serving 34.5 million acres (13.96 million ha) of contiguous cultivated land. The system is fed by the waters of the Indus River and its tributaries. The salient features of the system are three major storage reservoirs, namely, Tarbela and Chashma on River Indus, and Mangla on River Jhelum, with a present live-storage of about 15.4 BM3 (12.5 MAF), 19 barrages; 12 inter-river link canals and 43 independent irrigation canal commands. The total length of main canals alone is 58,500 km. Water courses comprise another 1,621,000 kms.