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LARKANA: The rice-growing belt having over 400,000 acres of cultivable land duly irrigated by the Rice and Warah canals and partly by Dadu canal is facing an acute shortage of irrigation water.

This was stated by Siraj Rashdi, president of the Sindh Chamber of Agriculture, Larkana chapter, on Thursday.

“The tail-enders are suffering the most. We are already one month late in water arrival and under the circumstances, more delay would risk the paddy crop amidst the unavailability of certified seeds,” he said.

The days to sow IRRI-6, IRRI-8 and DR-92 were almost over and now peasants, small khatedars and landlords relied on hybrid seeds, he said.

The hybrid seeds were available in the market, but their higher prices would affect the overall production, he said.

The Rice Canal is the offshoot of River Indus with 21,500 cusec designed discharges having 65 miles length whereas the Warah Canal has 98 branches.

The alarming situation is that due to silt-up bed of Rice Canal, it flew in 2013 at 13,000 cusec which itself is a small intake from the River Indus.

Currently, in the peak paddy transplantation season, it flows at only 10,200 cusec, sources monitoring water flows say.

The paddy nurseries ready for plantation were drying and dying due to the shortage of irrigation water which kept them alive, Mr Rashdi said.

Citing the example of Saeed Odero minor (irrigation tributary) passing through Naudero, he said it was yet to get required water and since one and half year, its maintenance was continued at a snail’s pace.

“We are running from pillar to post for getting our just share of water, but unfortunately irrigation officers either were not sitting in offices or declined to attend phone calls,” Mr Rashdi said.

Reports gathered from Warah areas indicated towards 80 per cent water shortage where the tail enders were largely suffering.

However, the branches at the head of the canal were getting water for both the survival of paddy nurseries and paddy transplantation, said Moor Chandio.

Liaquat Bhatti, president of the irrigation staff union, talking to Dawn on Thursday linked the water shortage in Rice Canal with the construction of Warah Canal from Ruk regulator.

Certain gates of Warah Canal at this point were slit up at Ruk juncture and that was the key cause of paucity of water, he said.

The issue of water shortage further aggravated with the shortage of executive engineers at Rice Canal, Dadu Canal, Warah Canal and Saifullah Magsi branch, the sources said.

Under the conditions, either superintendent engineers or engineers posted at other canals were holding dual charges.

The department is currently confronting issues of administration, shortage of officers and reluctance of lower staff to work.

While leaders of the Sindh Abadgar Board and Sindh Chamber of Agriculture said the department concerned faced a chaos due to mismanagement. Improper mechanism and slit-up beds of canals, irrigation tributaries and off shoots had become a constant problem for growers, they said.

They called for extra ordinary measures to deal with what they called extra ordinary situation. They feared reduced rice production if the situation persisted for long.

They did not rule out the possibility of pest attack and other problems in case of late sown paddy verities.

Published in Dawn, July 4th, 2014