Emerging Issues in the Implementation of Irrigation and Drainage Sector Reforms in Sindh, Pakistan

Publication Year : 2012

Ever increasing demand for food, electricity and domestic water use due to rapid growth in population has remained a key challenge for Pakistan since the 1950s. The country has invested heavily in water engineering projects to establish the world’s largest gravity-driven irrigation network on the Indus [Bandaragoda (2006); Bengali (2009)]. Besides fulfilling a significant proportion of the country’s energy demand from hydro-power installations, the system irrigates about 14 million hectares of farmlands and supports agriculture sector to contribute about 21 percent of the GDP, 60 percent of the exports and 45 percent of the labour force [Bhutta (2006); Pakistan (2012)]. Amidst its development, the elaborated irrigation facility has left a deep footprint on productivity and environment of the basin itself in the form of the rising levels of water-logging and salinity and the degradation of deltaic ecology [Briscoe and Qamar (2009); Memon and Thapa (2011)]. By the 1960s, every year about 40,000 hectares of fertile farmlands were turning into wastelands because of water-logging and salinity in the basin [Bhutta (2006); Mulk (2009); Qureshi, et al. (2008)]. Therefore, the country had no option but to develop a remedial drainage network of thousands of kilometres of drains and numerous tube wells parallel to the existing irrigation infrastructure.