LAHORE: The Punjab on Monday increased abiana (water service charges) from current Rs270 per acre per year (Rs170 for Kharif and Rs100 for Rabi) to Rs400 for low water allowance soils and Rs550 for high water allowance acres.

According to the budget documents, it has also increased water charges to Rs500 for those acres that fall in the lift irrigation territory. Water supplies to orchards would also cost Rs500 per acre in the next fiscal.

In addition to increase in abiana, the province, for the first time, has also levied drainage charges at the rate of Rs50 per acre – for canal drainage. However, if the drainage process includes tube-well, the surcharge would be increased to Rs100 per acre because it involves electricity or diesel cost as well.

According to Mohsin Leghari, the provincial minister for irrigation, who pleaded for the raise in water charges and levying of drainage cost, the department would now start generating its own resources by leasing out its lands, collecting toll on its bridges and barrages, charging housing colonies and the industry for right of way (electricity lines or water pipes running through its lands). The department hopes to make Rs6.3 billion on these heads. Though the maintenance budget has also been increased from Rs6bn last year to Rs9bn this year, any addition (more than this year) in the departmental income from all these heads would only be used for maintaining the system, which is much more important than initiating new schemes.

Considerable raise in abiana rates; 300pc increase in agriculture budget

According to the budgetary documents, the provincial government has launched Rs32bn Jalalpur Canal project, remodeling of SMB Link Canal at the cost of Rs4bn, disaster and climate resilient project worth Rs10bn, Trimmu Barrage and Panjnad Headworks plan at a cost Rs16bn.

Agri-sector: The Punjab on Monday announced hiking of its agricultural budget from Rs7.75 billion last year to Rs31.50bn – more than 300 per cent increase within the span of a year – and claimed credit for another Rs5bn under the Prime Minister’s Agriculture Transformation Programme to be invested in the province.

According to the budgetary document, Rs18.37bn would be spent on 30 ongoing schemes and Rs13.22bn on 31 schemes to be launched during the next year. As per the budget speech of the finance minister, the prime minister’s vision will dictate reforms and set agenda for introducing reforms in various sectors next year.

For improving agriculture research and extension services, Rs7bn are being set aside in the budget. Another Rs5bn are being spared for improvement of water resources.

In order to bring down the cost of production, insured crops and easy loans, the allocation is being increased from Rs5.82bn to Rs7.60bn. It was because of these farmer-friendly policies, the Punjab did wonderfully well in all crops last year and the government was determined to improve upon its performance this year, the minister added.

The province has also allocated Rs5bn for the livestock sector. Out of it, Rs1.58bn would be spent on the ongoing projects, while fresh projects worth Rs3.42bn would also be launched. Another Rs110 million have also been allocated for backyard poultry development, which would directly contribute to poverty alleviation.

The Punjab government has also launched a plan for upgrade of divisional veterinary hospitals and laboratories at a cost Rs100m. The government also plans to subsidise silage making machines by 50pc and has set aside Rs320m for the purpose.

With these massive allocations for the year, the provincial government hopes to harvest huge benefits for not only itself, but the farming community as well.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2021

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