HYDERABAD, June 14: Organisations of growers in Sindh have expressed dissatisfaction over proposed allocation  for the irrigation sector of in the provincial budget of 2012-13.

They said the allocation should be revised upwards because growth of agriculture sector was directly linked with the upkeep of irrigation system.

The Sindh government has presented a total outlay of Rs577.98 billion against estimated receipts of Rs570.82 billion with a deficit of Rs7.16 billion. It has allocated Rs8 billion for the water and drainage sector on development side whereas agriculture component has an allocation of Rs13.69 billion.

Two main growers’ bodies have lauded a number of schemes that are taken in hand in next year’s budget but at the same time they are worried about pathetic condition of irrigation infrastructure. They said Sindh had been hit by disasters in 2010 and 2011.

“We really commend government’s decision to increase number of tractors and offer for loans by Sindh Bank,” said Abdul Majeed Nizamani, president of the Sindh Abadgar Board (SAB). At least the government has given attention to agriculture related issues.

Announcement that the government would give 200,000 land was fair but this land should not be obtained from katcha area, he said.

Riverine forest or land is the one which is located between two banks and bed of river Indus. Bed of river Indus is stretched over 500,000 acres.

If the government has land, it may utilise it for distribution but should avoid touching katcha area land on both the sides of the river. “It seems that the government will allot land that is meant for riverine forest and if this is done it will be a disaster,” Mr Nizamani said.

Currently, mangroves and riverine forest exist only on 150,000 acres each.

Mr Nizamani added that LBOD (Left Bank Outfall Drain) and RBOD (Right Bank Outfall Drain) were both vital projects for Sindh if agriculture land was to be protected.

“These two projects should be completed forthwith. RBOD-II should be completed because it is crucial for land on right bank of Indus if it is to be saved,” he said. The project is lying incomplete after it was launched during the Musharraf regime.

“A cut-off date should be given for completion of RBOD-II,” he said, adding that the drainage sector was given a meagre allocation in Sindh government budget.

SAB general secretary Mehmood Nawaz Shah said that even regular upkeep of the irrigation system was an important area which had been neglected. “I think irrigation infrastructure needs around Rs30 billion at least and then there is an issue of capacity building of the department,” he said. He considered lining of watercourses crucial in this era of climate change.

Mehmood Nawaz Shah said lining of watercourses should be given due attention, appreciating that the National Programme for Improvement of Watercourses (NPIW) was a success among the farming community. He said that under on-farm water management programme total length of a watercourse should be lined.

Insufficient funds allocation for the irrigation sector disturbs Dr Nadeem Qamar, president of the Sindh Chamber of Agriculture (SCA) also.

He said that lining of watercourses in future was not mentioned in the budget.

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