RAWALPINDI, May 14: The Agency for Barani Area Development (ABAD) is waiting for the approval of the Planning Commission for its drought mitigation project that envisages sustainable integrated development of water resources in the rain-fed areas of Punjab.

Official sources told Dawn that implementation of the Rs90 million project was scheduled to begin during the second half of 2005 but the Federal Drought Emergency Relief Assistance (DERA) Unit of the Planning and Development Division had not yet given go-ahead for implementation of the project. The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) has already approved the project, the sources said.

The function of DERA Unit is to facilitate the implementation of the project in the drought-hit areas of all the four provinces and coordinate activities carried out in the provinces to mitigate the effects of drought.

A delay in implementation of the project would make the rain- fed agriculture in barani areas vulnerable to drought, causing colossal loss of water and bringing farmers to their knees, feared a senior official of the Punjab Agricultural Department.

The three-year project is aimed at carrying out rainwater harvesting interventions in water scarce areas to combat water shortage and utilise available water using high efficiency irrigation systems/techniques in the water-scarce areas for socio-economic uplift.

When completed, the project would bring more barani areas under irrigation; increase yield per acre; change crop pattern; utilise stored water for irrigation and fish farming in addition to raising cash crop and fruit orchards.

The project envisages construction of 42 mini dams and 81 ponds; setting up of 60 water regulatory structures and 39 turbines and sinking of 144 tube wells.

Integrated Development of Water Resources in Barani areas Project is the second phase of DERA-I, which was completed in 2005. The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank have also funded the project. Among the constraints learnt from DERA-I were limited capacity at district level and lack of accounting at all tiers. Under the first phase, ABAD coordinated 12 projects out of which, three projects, costing Rs28.702 million, were executed by the Barani Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) in Chakwal, Barani Livestock Production Research Institute (BLPRI) in Kherimurit, Attock, and Small Dams Organization (SDO) in Islamabad.