Irregular rains force Pakistan to depend on irrigation to safeguard crops

Women participating in agricultural activities in Sindh, Pakistan. Image credit: Asian Development Bank

Punjab province, in Pakistan, depends on rain for agriculture, which makes up more than 80 per cent of the country’s agricultural output. But in a time where rainfall has become erratic and uncertain, harvests have been lost, and food security, fast diminishing. And in a nation where, according to data from the Pakistan Economic Survey, agriculture accounts for 20 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) and 42 per cent of employment, calling the issue of irregular rains ‘pressing’ is understated.

Although the semi-arid climate in Pakistan means that nine-tenths of their agricultural produce are dependent on irrigation from the Indus Basin Irrigation System that is drawn from the Indus River, an estimated one-fifth of arable land in the nation is not covered by the system.

But things are beginning to look up for farmers in the region – the government has revealed plans to construct an irrigation system over some 68,000 hectares of barely-productive farmland using water from the nearby Jhelum River in the southwest.

According to the Thomas Reuters Foundation, the project, which is supported by government agency Indus River System Authority (IRSA) that supervises water sharing between various provinces, has also had its US$275 million loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) approved.

“Having a sufficient and effective irrigation system is fundamental in the development of Pakistan’s agriculture sector, a significant driver of the country’s economy,” Ryutaro Takaku, a water specialist at the ADB’s Central and West Asia Department, said. “The project will help increase agricultural production and improve food security in Pakistan.”


Source: Thomas Reuters Foundation