AN Asian Development Bank (ADB)-funded project comprising six schemes is being launched in Balochistan to help bring hundreds of acres of land under irrigation in Karkh valley that will not only increase command area but also ensure sustained water supply.

This is the second project submitted to the ADB for developing water resources in the province.

Under the Balochistan Water Resources Development Project (BWRDP), the Asian bank will also assist the province build earth-filled Sri Toi water storage dam and irrigation project in the northern part of the basin on an isolated tributary of Zhob river.

Work on the Balochistan Water Resources Development Project is scheduled to start in October and will take five years to complete

The proposed Karkh river schemes are located a few kilometres from each other and are therefore being bundled up. These schemes will bring 5,560 acres under cultivation out of which 4,940 acres are already under cultivation, while an additional 620 acres will be added to the command area.

On the other hand, the Kharzan Hatachi infiltration gallery is located on Mula river, about 120km north-east of Khuzdar town via the Ratodero-Gwadar motorway. The schemes will bring 1,680 acres under cultivation, while an additional 260 acres will be added to the existing command area.

The project is aimed at providing more irrigation water to the existing and available command area in Kharzan and Hatachi villages. The subproject will also provide the protection bund along some reaches of command area to preserve them from floodwater. The availability of water round the year will increase productivity and enhance income generation activities in the area.

A technical report prepared for the project and submitted to the ADB says that although Kharzan is already receiving its required irrigation water, there is a conflict on the water use among the villages of Kharzan and Hatachi. Building infiltration galleries for each village will resolve this issue.

Furthermore, as Hatachi is downstream of Kharzan village it receives irrigation water only when the water requirement of Kharzan has been met by Mula river.

The project will ensure water supplies to 1,420 acres existing commands, and also adding 260 acres new command area in Hatachi, flood protection for Kharzan and Hatachi villages with proper distribution of readily available water with little investment and optimum productivity.

The province experiences frequent spells of droughts and occasional but torrential floods. Perennial rivers are rare in the region and life is mostly dependent on run-off farming (called khushkaba) or spate irrigation (flood water harvesting or sailaba).

The proposed Karkh valley development subproject involves general work, the construction of the Jhalaro weir and the rehabilitation of the Chutta weir.

The proposed Mula river interventions involve building infiltration gallery for Kharzan and Hatachi villages, lining canals, rehabilitating the irrigation system, and improving flood protection works — raising existing bunds and protecting new low-lying command areas.

Weirs at the Karkh river were constructed 20 years ago and have been operating over the passage of time. A lack of maintenance has damaged the existing infrastructure and has become useless for irrigation works. The rehabilitation of existing structures with minor additional works and cleaning of weeds is proposed because of its success in the past.

The project is aimed at providing more irrigation water to the existing and available command area in Kharzan and Hatachi villages. The subproject will also provide the protection bund along some reaches of command area to preserve them from floodwater

The project area is considered as poor from an economic perspective and subsistence farming is the economic mainstay. The technical report recommends that the project should be implemented to change the economic conditions, as with the increasing population and scarcity of resources residents are forced to abandon their homes in search of livelihood and grazing grounds for their cattle stock.

In Kharzan and Hatachi, crops are cultivated both during Rabi and Kharif seasons. Rabi crops include wheat, mash bean, onion, tomatoes, while Kharif crops are onion, tomatoes, cucumber, water melon, melon, rice, cotton.

In addition to field crops, farmers have also grown horticulture and fruit crops, including mangoes, date palm and lemon.

Currently, the perennial surface flow is diverted to irrigate the existing command area in Hatachi and Kharzan villages. Due to the presence of considerable surface water, it is also used for livestock, drinking and other domestic purposes. Although perennial flow is used for irrigation, flood water is also available during high flow season.

The BWRDP project is scheduled to complete in five years, starting in October this year and ending in September 2023.

The bidding and award process for core subprojects in the Mula river basin is scheduled in the first three months of the project. The Karkh river development subproject includes the command area development and some rehabilitation works, while Kharzan and Hatachi infiltration gallery subproject includes the construction of two infiltration galleries, one for each village and their irrigation network.

The two core subprojects, to be completed in two years, are the first two to be constructed. Both will start in November this year and end in October 2020 and their watershed development works are scheduled in March 2020 to August 2021.

The technical report of the project has recommended that new structures like the extension of infiltration gallery tunnel, lining of infiltration gallery wells, infiltration gallery tunnel cleaning, lining of covered channel, open channel lining, social structures and time division structures should be constructed for an efficient use of water to increase cropping intensity in the command area of the infiltration gallery.

The provision of permanent infrastructure will improve system efficiency by reducing losses and conveyance times between the source and outlets. These savings will help expand the command area, diversify cropping pattern and increase cropping intensities.

Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, February 19th, 2018