Keeping in view the changing patterns in water sector, growing needs of water utilization for food crops and the need to involve the farming community in the repairmen and maintenance of colossal irrigation infrastructure, the government of the Punjab embarked upon a major institutional reforms programme by involving decentralization and transformation of its colossal irrigation system. These institutional reforms were launched with the promulgation of Punjab Irrigation and Drainage Authority Act, 1997 by the Provincial Assembly of the Punjab. World Bank provided loan for the reforms. Since then, the irrigation management transfer reforms are being managed by the Irrigation Department i.e., under public sector infrastructure.
The reforms in irrigation management mainly focus on decentralization, participatory management, improved services and sustainability of the infrastructure. Under the implementation of reforms process, the management functions of various entities are transformed and functions of Irrigation Department are shared by newly established institutions viz. Punjab Irrigation and Drainage Authority (PIDA) at provincial level (representation of farmers and the government), Area Water Boards (AWB) at Canal Command level, Farmer Organizations (FOs) at Distributaries level and Khal Panchayats (KP) at Watercourse level.
Under this new role, Irrigation Department has the responsibility of overall policy regulation and overseeing of reforms process. PIDA, as an autonomous entity, is responsible for all the functions of the Irrigation Department with emphasis on improving irrigation performance, optimizing water use efficiency, introducing the concept of participatory management, undertaking measures to improve assessment and collection of Abiana (water charges), and making the Authority self sustaining. The Area Water Board performs most of the above mentioned irrigation management functions at the Canal Command Level (CCL) and also adopts implementation programs aimed at promoting the formation and growth of Farmer Organizations. Farmer Organizations are the basic management unit and responsible to operate and manage the Distributaries in their jurisdiction, obtain irrigation water from the main canals and supply it to the farmers equitably, repair and maintain the channels/works & structures, resolve the water related disputes, and assess, collect & deposit the amount of water charges etc.
It may be added here that Punjab accounts for 80% of Pakistan’s total agri-production. Over 90% of Punjab’s agricultural output comes from lands irrigated by its huge irrigation system. However, in the recent past, Punjab faced major irrigation and drainage challenges with serious social, economic and environmental implications which included poor irrigation service delivery, unreliable and inequitable water distribution, absence of user participation in operation, maintenance and management of irrigation service and lack of communication with stakeholders in water management.
The irrigation infrastructure of Punjab comprises 3993 miles long 24 main and branch canals along with 19191 miles long Distributaries and Minors. As a whole, the total length of inter-river link canals is 528 miles. The total off-take capacity of main canals is 1.2 lakh cusecs and link canals’ 1.1 lakh cusecs. There have been 58000 outlets installed in these water channels for the purpose of irrigation whereas Gross Command Area is 23.35 million acres and Culturable Command Area is 20.78 million acres in the province. There are thirteen Headworks/ Barrages which are very helpful to ensure water supply in all the cultivable lands of Punjab and therefore, becomes the base of the largest irrigation system of the world.
Punjab Irrigation & Power Department (IPD) is undergoing a fast program of lining of irrigation channels for efficient and equitable distribution of water besides improving the huge irrigation sector which is more than a century old and therefore, the need was arisen to revamp and modernize the colossal network which is benefiting many a million farmers in the province and making it a virtual food basket of the whole country.
With this thing in mind, the provincial government launched massive overhauling of irrigation infrastructure. The various mega water sector projects relating to the rehabilitation of the canal infrastructure include, Rs. 30,996 million worth scheme of channels’ lining .This scheme is aimed at improving hydraulic performance of the system, maintaining equity of distribution, reducing maintenance needs to ensure substantial water conservation. Similarly, the project of irrigation system rehabilitation (ISPR) will provide equitable and assured water supply to the farmers, especially at the tails. This will be achieved through strengthening of canal banks and rehabilitation of hydraulic structures / regulators. The Rs.19, 519 million project includes 25 different schemes and these schemes have been financed through public sector development program.
Keeping in view the importance of irrigation sector in the overall economy of the country, and the role played by the IPD, various international donor agencies like World Bank, ADB and JICA are also funding irrigation projects. JICA has financed Punjab Irrigation System improvement project in Bahawalpur, D.G. Khan and Faisalabad Zones. This project is expected to be completed in June 2013 with the cost of Rs. 6260 million. Punjab Government is contributing 12% share and 655240 hector CCA will be benefited by this project.
For the improvement of the oldest Lower Bari Doab Canal System in Punjab, Asian Development Bank and Government of Punjab have together launched the Lower Bari Doab Canal Improvement Project to maintain and enhance the water supply up to 1.7 million acres in the districts of Kasur, Okara, Sahiwal and Khanewal. This Project comprises of the rehabilitation and up-gradation of Balloki Barrage Complex, On Farm and Ground Water Management, implementation of Institutional Reforms and the migration of environmental issues of the area. The total cost of the LBDCCIP is Rs. 17, 176 million; out of which 77% is the share of ADB, while rest of the amount is shared by Punjab Government.
With an amount of Rs. 9142 million, rehabilitation of Lower Chenab Canal System (Part-B) Project is being implemented to revamp the Lower Gugera, Burala, Main Ali and Rakh Branches of the LCC System to maintain the water supply up to 1.69 million acre cultivable lands of Hafizabad, Sheikhupura, Nankana Sahib, Faisalabad and T.T Singh districts of Punjab. Japan Bank for International Cooperation contributed 72.6% cost of the project, while the rest of 27.4% share is financed by Government of the Punjab. The LCC rehabilitation project will help to rehabilitate the 381 KM long Branch canals, 1501 KM Distributaries and Minors including 994 KM lining. There will also be 231 new bridges constructed or replaced with the old ones. Likewise, 188 new Cattle Ghat will also be constructed under this project. The project deadline has been declared March 31, 2013.
It is hoped that these reforms will help to overcome the water supply shortage, rehabilitate the irrigation infrastructure, promote public-private partnership and result in increasing agri-productivity for ever increasing population. It is equally important that timely completion of these schemes should be ensured and corruption should also be zero tolerated. Punjab government should also attend to the needs of building a much larger water reservoirs like the Kalabagh Dam as roughshod India already stopped Pakistan’s legitimate water share by building network of dams, canals and Distributaries; while the federal government is turning a deaf ear to this epiphany that if we continue napping like this, then one day, there will be no water for our agriculture.
And, this is what India has actually planned for Pakistan.