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water crisis in pakistan

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    water crisis in pakistan

    is it man made and due to neglect or simply
    population outgrew water supplies?
    is there any way we can catch rain water in underground tunnels nad store it use it when needed. both india and pakistan is facing
    water crisis and both economies are still dependant and water . water problem also creates fights between states within india and pakistan to share water resources.

    The water crisis

    Akmal Hussain

    Irrigation today is vital to sustaining Pakistan's agricultural production and the economy as a whole. Irrigated land supplies over 90% of agricultural production, while agriculture in turn fulfills most of the country's food requirements, contributes 26% of GDP and employs 54% of the labour force. Agriculture is also a source of raw materials for major domestic industries particularly cotton products which account for 80% of the value of exports.

    Even though irrigation is the life blood of Pakistan's agriculture and indeed its economy, yet successive governments in the past have allowed Pakistan's irrigation and drainage systems to deteriorate to a critical level. Poor maintenance has resulted in the gradual deterioration in the canal irrigation system whose carrying capacity of water has been reduced due to lack of adequate de-silting and crumbling of canal banks. Delivery efficiency (from the canal head to the root zone of crops) is now as low as 35 to 40%. The annual diversion of water from the rivers into the surface irrigation system is about 93 million-acre feet out of which only about 37 million-acre feet actually reaches the root zone of crops. The remaining 56 million-acre feet is lost to canal seepage, spillage, breaches and watercourse losses. Loss of such a large part of the surface water not only deprives farmers of water for crops but also contributes to water logging and salinity. The improvement of irrigation efficiencies has become a major policy imperative in view of the fact that the extensive margin on irrigated acreage has been reached and future agricultural growth will have to rely on improving the efficiency of water use and other inputs.

    In the ensuing section of this article we will briefly indicate how the slow down and increased instability of agricultural growth is rooted in the deteriorating water and soil conditions as a prelude to identifying some of the major problems of irrigation.

    Agriculture growth, poverty and irrigation

    The level and pattern of output growth in the crop sector during the 1990s when viewed in a longer-term perspective suggest the emergence of institutional constraints to sustainability, such as irrigation water and related soil degradation. The average annual growth rate of major crops declined from 3.34% during the 1980s to 2.38% during the 1990s. At the same time, the frequency of negative growth in some of the major crops during the last 17 years has been significantly higher than in the preceding two decades. If we consider wheat, which is by far the largest of the major crops (over 30% value added in major crops), we find that average annual growth rates have been steadily declining since the onset of the 'Green Revolution': From the high point of 7.42% in the 1960s to 2.33% in the 1990s. Underlying the decline in the growth of wheat output is a steady decline in the growth of wheat yield per hectare: From 4.38% in the decade of 1960s to 1.81% in the 1990s. The frequency of years in which an absolute decline in wheat yield per hectare occurred was 7 in the period 1980 to 1997, compared to 5 in the preceding two decades. Under conditions of declining input productivity, when higher input use/acre is required to maintain yields, small farmers with fewer resources are likely to suffer a greater than average decline in yields, compared to large farmers. At the same time, due to lack of savings to fall back on, they are relatively more vulnerable to bad harvests under conditions of unstable growth. Consequently, slower and more unstable growth may be accompanied by a tendency for growing inequality in rural income distribution, poverty and unemployment. This is why it is important to initiate policies to counteract these tendencies in both the farm and off-farm sectors of agriculture#. Underlying the phenomenon of a gradual deceleration of growth and increased frequency of negative growth years may be the emergence of a number of institutional constraints, the two most important ones being (i) reduced water availability due to deterioration in the canal irrigation system, (ii) degradation of soils due to depleting soil nutrients and soil erosion associated with improper agricultural practices.

    Major problems of Pakistan's irrigation

    In view of the fact that Pakistan's river flows are highly seasonal (85% of annual flows are in the summer season). Pakistan does not have adequate reservoir capacity in its irrigation system to store seasonal waters. Consequently cropping intensity is exceptionally low. (For example out of 16 million hectares of irrigated land only 5.7 million hectares 35%) are double cropped. Low delivery efficiency of irrigation due to overuse and poor maintenance results in average delivery efficiency of only 35 to 40% from the canal head to the root zone, with most of the losses occurring in the watercourses. This huge loss of surface water is a major factor in creating water logging and salinity. A significant proportion of the water lost through such seepage from the irrigation system flows into saline groundwater reservoirs thereby making it impossible for re-use by tubewell irrigation. Since Pakistan's agriculture depends almost completely on irrigation, in the face of increasing shortages of water in the future, improvement in the delivery efficiency of irrigation is crucial to sustaining agricultural production.

    Drainage, waterlogging and salinity

    The flat topography of the Indus Plain and the associated lack of natural drainage channels, semi-arid climate and porous soils combine to create a surface drainage problem. This problem is compounded by construction of roads, railways and flood embankments which obstruct natural drainage flows. Irrigation without adequate drainage in such an environment, inevitably leads to rising water tables and hence salinity and water logging. Therefore it is vital for the sustainability of agricultural production to take steps for constructing adequate drainage systems to remove excess water and salt from the soil. During the 1960s a number of Salinity Control and Reclamation Projects (SCARPs) were undertaken. Despite these efforts, about 30% of the Gross Commanded Area (GCA) is water logged and 14% is salt affected. Inequitable distribution of irrigation water contrary to the assumption in the original design of the irrigation delivery system, in reality, water does not reach users at the tail end of the system. This is to a large extent due to reduced carrying capacity of canals resulting from inadequate maintenance. Illegal pumping from canals adds to the inequality of distribution.

    Operation and maintenance of irrigation system

    Pakistan's irrigation and drainage systems have been deteriorating because of deferred maintenance associated with tight budgetary constraints and declining administrative capability. The gap between O&M expenditure requirements and recoveries through water charges has been increasing, and has now reached 57% for Pakistan as a whole and over 80% for NWFP and Balochistan.

    In dealing with Pakistan's water crisis four key issues need to be urgently addressed: Build new dams for increasing the reservoir capacity of the irrigation system and provide a seasonally flexible supply of water to farmers. This would be necessary to increase cropping intensity, where at the moment only 35% of irrigated area can be double cropped. Improve the delivery efficiency of irrigation. Currently only 35% water diverted from rivers, actually reaches the root zone of crops. Develop improved drainage systems and control salinity and water logging. Currently 30% of the Gross Canal Commanded Area is water logged and 14% is affected by salinity. Develop new Operations and Maintenance (O&M) Systems which can achieve (i) the necessary levels of efficiency in maintenance of canals (ii) greater equity in water distribution (iii) finance the required O&M expenditure through user charges (iv) decentralise O&M to enable farmer organisations to manage water courses.

    The issues identified in this essay represent a challenge to think clearly, innovate and manage water resources efficiently. It is a challenge to national leadership as much as to the global community. The survival of our civilisation, as indeed, global peace and economic stability depend on how successfully we can confront the challenge of the water crisis.

    The Pakistan Institute for Environment, Development Action Research (PIEDAR) is an independent NGO registered under the Societies Act, which began a pioneering support program in the Khanewal district of Southern Punjab in 1992. Using the Participatory Development Methodology, it abetted the formation of village organisations of poor peasants and initiated a process for enabling the village communities to build hygienic drinking water facilities, a wide range of micro enterprise projects, (operated in many cases by women) for income generation, increased savings, development of home schools for women, and finally lining of water courses for increased irrigation efficiency.

    The PIEDAR approach was different from the approach of the government department on-farm water management in terms of three features: (a) PIEDAR established multi-purpose VOs instead of single purpose water users associations across a number of villages, (b) Between 30 to 33% of the investment cost of the water course lining was financed from the collective savings of the VOs, (c) Instead of the brick lining technique of the government department, PIEDAR used pre-cast concrete segments, manufactured in a local factory. With brick lining, due to non-congruence of the parabolic curve of the water channel and the curvature of the brick lining, cracks emerge after a year, resulting in large water leakage through the spaces between the bricks. By contrast, the pre-cast concrete segments whose internal curvature coincides with that of the water course are not only much more efficient insulators but also have a much longer life (50 years) compared to brick lining.

    PIEDAR has been engaged in fostering community based water course management since 1995 and has now achieved coverage of 30 villages and six water courses. The COs have provided 25% of the cash cost of the investment from their collective savings and have also contributed the cement and labour themselves. (The total contribution of the poor peasants to the lining of water courses has been estimated at 30 to 33% in addition to the labour involved in maintenance). Such a contribution by the villagers and their interest in maintenance is unprecedented in any on-farm water management project under government auspices.


    i found this article about water saving
    which seems to be a right idea

    A water man in a desert state
    Paloma Ganguly, Bhikampura (Rajasthan)
    March 03, 2001 10:40 Hrs (IST)

    single lantern glows feebly, softening the pitch darkness of the night. From somewhere a jackal howls, breaking the din of crickets. It could be the perfect ghost story setting.

    But it's not. A dimly lit compound in Bhikampura village, some 150 km from state capital Jaipur, is where a burly, bearded man sits, talking. Listen, for Rajendra Singh's tale lies intertwined with that of 750 odd villages that struck water in the desert state, never to look back.

    Singh, 43, has spent the last 15 years of his life struggling from this harsh terrain at the dry Aravalli foothills -- where there are few pucca roads, where power supply is all erratic as a whim -- simply to restore people's right to water.

    "In 1984, I got fed up with my staid project officer's job in the education ministry. So one day, I randomly boarded a bus from Jaipur with four friends and got off at the last stop," says Singh, clad in his trademark kurta-pajama.

    Thousands are grateful the journey was made, though it was a complete twist in the life of a man who grew up in Meerut, Uttar Pradesh, doing a bachelor's in Ayurveda and master's in Hindi. Today Singh eats, sleeps and drinks water-harvesting structures like check-dams and johads (traditional crescent-shaped ponds).

    From Bhikampura, he now heads the Tarun Bharat Sangh (TBS), a name synonymous in Rajasthan with mobilizing villagers to build 4,000 water-harvesting structures that trap rain, leading to increased groundwater levels -- from about 200 ft to 30 ft.

    Two-thirds of these structures, built without the help of a single trained engineer and at a ridiculously low total cost of Rs. 80 million, still have water despite the third continuous year of drought in Rajasthan.

    "What I saw then was pathetic. People did not even have drinking water, forget irrigation and other needs. They were migrating in droves. But I had no concrete plan in mind and felt helpless," he says with a faraway look.

    After six months of wandering, an incident in the Gopalpura village decided his fate. "That was when Mangu Patel, a village elder, told me, 'if you really want to help, bring water,'" Singh says. "The simplest way to that is to dig a johad," Mangu told him, and drew a line on the dusty ground with his feet.

    Singh picked up a spade and started digging. As simple as that. "By God's grace" that year and the next, there was good rainfall, enough to fill Gopalpura's tiny johads with water, and consequently filling up wells and yielding better crops. Soon news of Gopalpura's prosperity spread and there began a huge success story of self-help.

    In this, Singh and the villagers have had to wage the usual battle against bureaucracy. "In the last 15 years, 377 cases have been filed against me and the villagers for illegal structures. But if an activity helps people why should useless government rules obstruct it?" he asks.

    Today, when Singh steps into a village people rush to him with Hare, Hare (traditional greeting hailing lord Krishna), hug him and look at him with the hope of deliverance.

    But has his personal life suffered? "Why should it? This is what I wanted to do. The only people who made sacrifices are my wife and two children whom I meet once or twice a month in Jaipur."

    Singh is content. Villages have water. TBS is well funded by organizations like Oxfam and Ecco-Netherlands. He has won recognition too and frequently attends global water management conferences, to the extent that some accuse him of not developing a second line of leadership and that he may be getting sucked into the media savvy world of networking.

    But, dismisses Singh, "These are useless urban terms. Why do you need people's networking when things have a way of connecting? Don't you see here how the land and its ponds have networked themselves?"