Pakistan Institute of Development Economics



Future of Irrigation and Drainage in Pakistan

The future of Pakistan’s agriculture depends on the future of its irrigation and drainage system, which currently faces major problems. Increasing water logging and salinity, overexploitation of fresh groundwater, low efficiency in delivering and use, inequitable distribution, unreliable delivery, and insufficient cost recovery are some of these problems. These problems, however, are only symptoms of a deeper problem—the treatment by the government of irrigation water as a public good. Such a treatment has caused inefficient pricing of water, misallocation of resources and widespread rent-seeking behaviour. The future strategy for irrigation and drainage will require a major change in the public sector’s approach. An efficient self-sustaining irrigation and drainage system can be achieved only by promoting market-determined incentives for improved management of the irrigation and drainage services and giving the private sector a greater stake in the system. The process could begin by developing commercially-oriented public utilities on a canal-command basis, developing suitable farmer organisations around distributaries/minors, formalising water rights, developing autonomous provincial water authorities, and developing provincial regulatory bodies for regulating public utilities, water rights, and groundwater resources.

Rashid Faruqee