ISLAMABAD, July 1: The Punjab Irrigation Department has said the canals in the province are facing an acute water shortage of 7% compared to last year and has asked cotton growers to manage water properly in order to achieve better yields.  

According to a spokesman of the department, farmers in the cotton belt have been advised to adopt water scouting method (making sure the water reaches every plant). Other measures suggested by the department include giving the required soil moisture to cotton plants by carrying out drill method of plantation (in which small holes are dug around each plant).

The government expects that in 2012-13 the overall availability of water on farms will remain about 142 million acre feet through a supply of surface water, canal withdrawals, canal lining and remodeling, irrigation system rehabilitation, and improvement programme, construction of small and medium dams, check dams and retention weirs (making soil retain water for hard times).

The canal irrigation system in Pakistan is financially unsustainable as it recovers only an average of 24% of its annual operational and management costs, imposing an annual subsidy of Rs5.4 billion at the national level.

In absolute terms, operational and management costs grew by 85% compared to the modest growth of 19% in revenue from abiana recovery during 2003-04 to 2009-10.  In addition, 67% of the organisational and management cost is spent on operational needs, leaving 33% for system maintenance.

The Planning Commission report called for rationalising abiana rates to achieve financial sustainability for irrigation systems, particularly when the nation is facing such fiscal constraints.  The future policy of irrigation water charges should target cost recovery as a short-term goal, and water resource conservation as a long-term aim when the high price of water would start reflecting scarcity value.

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