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40pc water shortage bodes ill for wheat

Updated February 04, 2019

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Experts warn that the issue will become graver in the absence of a coordinated effort to conserve the available water resources.— AFP/File
Experts warn that the issue will become graver in the absence of a coordinated effort to conserve the available water resources.— AFP/File

LAHORE: The agriculture sector which uses around 90 per cent of the available water resources, is facing over 40 per cent water shortage during the ongoing Rabi season and it will particularly hit the wheat crop.

Experts warn that the issue will become graver in the absence of a coordinated effort to conserve the available water resources and putting them under better effective use as Pakistan is on its way to become a water-stressed country by 2025.

Punjab Agriculture Secretary Wasif Khurshid says the department is promoting high-efficiency irrigation systems besides improving the water channels to minimise the wastage of water during flow from canals to fields.

For installation of high-efficiency irrigation systems like sprinklers and drip-irrigation, he says the government is offering 60 per cent subsidy. However, no plan has been devised yet to replace the crops that need too much water with the drought-tolerant ones.

Govt says judicious use of technology to help farmers

By adopting modern farming techniques the water use may be cut down by almost 50 per cent without compromising the yield, says Zahid Saleem, head of Pepsico Pakistan’s agronomy wing.

In Deepalpur, a visit to fields in Kasur corroborates the statement of Mr Saleem as potato growers are reaping 20 per cent more yield despite cutting down on the water use by half.

“We used to irrigate the crop every eighth day. But thanks to the Sustainable Farming Project, we adopted modern technology, installed devices to measure soil moisture and increased the irrigation duration from eight to eighteen days,” says Asim Dogar, a farmer who is partnering in the project.

“This helped us not only save water but also cut down our [irrigation] costs.”

Mr Saleem says they are also offering advice on best and rationalised use of fertilizers as well as training growers who wish to adopt the good agriculture practices as so far almost 600 acres of land have come under the Sustainable Farming Project.

Published in Dawn, February 4th , 2019