KARACHI: Alarming situation has developed as all the major Kharif crops including cotton, sugarcane, rice and maize are looking at a possible acute shortage of irrigation water.
According to reports reaching from rural Sindh and Punjab, cotton sowing has been adversely hit by the water shortages. The agricultural economy has a 19 per cent share in GDP and engages 42.3pc of labour force.
Although the government has fixed higher cotton crop production target for 2018-19 season at 14.37 million bales, so far the sowing of cotton which starts early in April in lower Sindh has yet to commence.
The growers in lower areas of Sindh like Tando Adam, Shahdadpur and Hyderabad as usual started sowing cotton crop but after receiving no water their entire exercise went in vain.
Dr Jassumal Neemani former chairman Pakistan Cotton Ginners Association (PCGA) talking to Dawn from Hyderabad said that hardly 25 per cent of cotton sowing has been down so far in lower Sindh and 75 per cent has yet to be done because growers are waiting for irrigation water.
He feared that cotton from Sindh fields normally start reaching ginneries from June 15 each year but due to delay in sowing the crop would not be available before July 15, or may even go beyond this timeline.
Southern Sindh and Rahim Yar Khan cotton badly damaged, Kharif crops at stake
A farmer based in Badin, with lands in the tail end of Akram Wah canal originating from Kotri barrage, tells Dawn that the shortages have sparked a highly politicised allocation of water between the perennial and six month canals, adversely impacting those lands fed by canals that do not feed the lands of powerful individuals connected with the provincial government.
“Much of the sugarcane crop is burnt since it has not been getting water since January” he tells Dawn. “Red chilli, which is planted latest by April 15 is also gone. Cotton, which should be planted latest by first week of May is also a casualty, since the water was supposed to come on Monday but it has not come, and what is on the way is less than one foot, which will reduce to two inches by the time it reaches the watercourses. Its a disaster!” he exclaims.
In Khoski and Shadi Large also in southern Badin, scuffles have been reported among people gathered at filter plants for drinking water.
Similar situation exists in Punjab which normally has an advantage of being upper riparian and historically Sindh always complained of being deprived from its due share of irrigation water.
But today both the leading provinces in agriculture sector are faced with similar situation of acute shortage of irrigation water to the extent that all the Kharif crops are at stake.
Talking to Dawn via telephone, Mian Mahmood Ahmed, a leading ginner and founder member of Rahimyar Khan Chamber, said that being member of district coordination committee, he attended a meeting in the Deputy Commissioner’s office on Monday in this regard. “The water situation is so grim that people were not interested in getting irrigation water but were asking for drinking water,” he said.
Mr Ahmed further said that due to no irrigation water, people complained that they even don’t have green fodder (chaara) for their animals.
He said that since December last year, irrigation water was not available but at the government level it seems the policy makers are least worried and are leading normal life. The rivers are dry and people are running from pillar to post in search of drinking water, he said.
Responding to a question, he said, “We are in a situation where all development works should be stopped and country’s entire resources be diverted for the construction of dams particularly Kalabagh dam.”
Mian Ahmed pointed out that recently even the Indus River System Authority (Irsa) spokesman accepted a fact that after the flow of water to both Punjab and Sindh to 34,700 cusecs and 31,000 cusecs, respectively the former is still facing shortage of irrigation water up to 52pc and later by 35pc.
Published in Dawn, May 1st, 2018