THE complete rehabilitation of the irrigation network in the Lower Chenab Canal system has contributed to the cropping intensity besides increasing farmers’ income in the region.

The rehabilitation, with the assistance of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica), has helped save 14 per cent water, thus ensuring that farmers in the tail-end areas of the canal system also get adequate water.

Rana Muhammad Asif, the chief engineer of the Lower Chenab Canal Rehabilitation project, says the irrigation network in Faisalabad spreading over seven districts has been rehabilitated while the discharge capacity of up to 50 cusecs were lined.

Faisalabad, the second largest city of Punjab, is irrigated by the lower Chenab river. The city produces cotton, wheat, sugar cane, maize, vegetables and fruits.

“Japan is glad to see the irrigation system in and near Faisalabad rehabilitated,” says Shinichi Honda, the head of economic and development section of the Japanese Embassy in Islamabad. The Japanese government has been assisting the irrigation department for many years, mainly through Jica loan projects, he says.

The lower Chenab canal emerges from Khanki headworks on Chenab river. It is located in Gujranwala district and was constructed during 1892-98, and is supplying irrigation water to 3.031 million acres of culturable command area through a network of branch canal system. In the Faisalabad canal division, a total of 56 tails have been improved.

Details provided by the project management team showed raising and strengthening of canal banks of up to 156km, and construction of 13 falls or cross regulators, 21 head regulators, 37 cattle bath stations and 11 VR bridges.

Under the second phase of the project, diversion channels, head regulators, escape channels and new bridges were constructed, hydraulic structures were remodelled and reconstructed, and 169 distributaries were lined.

Jica has completed the National Drainage Programme and the Lower Chenab Canal System Rehabilitation project with a Japanese soft loan of $218.13 million, while the Punjab Irrigation System Improvement project costing $106.31 million was progressing at a faster pace, and will be completed within the next two years. Of the total approved amount, around 26 billion Japanese yen have been utilised by the irrigation department.

Jica representative Ken Okumura says that his organisation was fully aware of the needs of Pakistan not only in irrigation but other sectors too, and would like to consider providing more financial assistance to projects in Pakistan.

Jica Senior Programme Officer Amir Abbas Bokhari explains that in addition to the loans for rehabilitation and improvement of the canal infrastructure, the agency has also extended technical cooperation for the capacity-building of farmer organisations and officials of the Punjab irrigation department in order to support the initiative of the irrigation department to introduce reforms in irrigation services and encourage farmers’ participation in irrigation water management system.

About the under-implementation of the Punjab Irrigation System Improvement project, the chief engineer says that the project will help reduce seepage losses in the saline area and to improve conveyance efficiency, reliability and durability of the system. It will provide irrigation water to the beneficiaries in a more sustainable and equitable manner, and help reduce the system maintenance cost.

The project aims to provide adequate and reliable irrigation supplies to the culturable lands of area, aiming at enhanced agricultural productivity, sustainable development with focus on holistic management and broad-based reforms.

According to details, the project envisages lining and rehabilitation and upgradation of channels covering three selected sub project areas failing in the commands of Eastern Sadiqia Canal (Bahawalpur zone district Bahawalnagar and Bahawalpur), Dera Ghazi Khan Canal (Faisalabad zone-district Hafizabad, Faisalabad, Jhang, Chinniot and Toba Tek Singh).

Explaining the criteria for the selection of channels under the project, Chief Engineer Rana Asif says that the areas have been selected in the brackish groundwater where existing seepage losses vary from 8pc to 14pc.

There has been a great demand from the local people for lining and rehabilitation of the channels due to shortage of water particularly in the tail reaches, he says.

The Punjab irrigation department has estimated incremental financial benefits of Rs2.88 billion on the entire project implementation. The direct economic benefits achieved to the society in the form of increased agricultural production due to the investment in irrigation infrastructure and institutional reforms to the tune of Rs3.004bn per annum on the entire project implementation.

Speaking on behalf of the farming community, Malik Shamsher Ahmed, who served twice as chairman of area water board, says that the provision of water to farmers at tail-end areas was a serious issue, but now tail-end farmers get adequate water for irrigation.

In the absence of canal water, farmers around tail-end canal areas were using underground water. With the provision of canal water, the trend of the usage of underground water has come to an end, and, according Mr Ahmed , the quality of canal water is healthy for agricultural crops.

Published in Dawn, The Business and Finance Weekly, May 7th, 2018

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