LAHORE: The government will focus on constructing new water reservoirs and uplifting the existing irrigation infrastructure to meet the water scarcity challenge, reveals the Pakistan Economic Survey for the year 2020-21.

It notes that the country received 15.9pc and 45.8pc less than normal rainfall during post-monsoon (Oct-Dec) in 2020 and winter season (Jan-March) in 2021, indicating Pakistan is a water-stressed country and thus efficient use of water is important for provision of safe drinking water, sustainable agricultural and industrial growth.

Referring to vulnerability of the agriculture sector, core of national economy and food security, and changes in water availability, it calls for inclusive and comprehensive planning to handle the imminent water crisis. To overcome water scarcity and to enhance storage capacity, two major storage dams (Diamer-Bhasha and Mohmand Dam) along with 518 medium and small dams with total storage capacity of 8.33MAF have been initiated throughout the country, it says.

The survey mentions five important elements in the ongoing Water Sector Development Programme, costing Rs1.151tr – water augmentation, conservation, groundwater management, protection of infrastructure from water logging/salinity and floods and proposition of institutional reforms. Future water sector development strategies aim at construction of small, medium and large dams and development of existing irrigation and drainage infrastructure.

The economic survey says that completion of 22 ongoing projects at a cost of Rs124bn will bring about 40,000 acres under cultivation, especially in Balochistan, around1.567m acres of agriculture land will protected from water logging and salinity by completion of RBOD-I & III in Sindh, rainwater harvesting of 0.21 MAF will be done through construction of small dams in Balochistan, recharging 1,000 wells and improvement of about 400 Karezes in Balochistan.

Around Rs46bn have been allocated for construction of large/medium dams followed by Rs10bn for small/recharge/check dams.

For remodeling of existing irrigation system, a sum of Rs961m is planned to be spent, though the programme will be gradually transferred to the provinces, and about Rs6.84bn are expected to be incurred for construction of new canals – Kachhi, Rainee, Warsak and Maki Farash Link Canal.

The work on projects for improvement of watercourses, water conservation in barani areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and enhancing command area in barani areas in all provinces, including Azad Jammu and Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan will continue during the next financial year.

Published in Dawn, June 11th, 2021

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