Pakistan Institute of Development Economics



Inequality in Irrigation Distribution in Pakistan

This paper provides estimates of the level of inequality inthe distribution of land and other irrigation-related land variablesamong agricultural households, across farm size groups both at thenational and provincial levels, at a point in time as well as over aperiod of time; it decomposes the levels of inequality in terms of itstwo components, namely, “within province” and “between provinces”inequality; and it estimates the relative performance of the fourprovinces in achieving equity in irrigation distribution. In doing thisanalysis, the paper makes use of the agricultural census reportspertaining to the years 1959-60, 1971-1972, and 1979-1980. The paper’smajor results are that there exists considerable intra- andinterprovincial inequality in Pakistan. Of the two major contributors tothe overall inequality in the country as a whole, the withinprovinceinequality component contributes more than 90 percent of the totalinequality. The paper identifies the two main reasons for the highwithin-province inequality as being (I) the very highly skeweddistribution of land across cultivating households and (2) the lack ofregressi vity in the distribution of irrigation across farm size groups,especially that of govemment”controlled canal irrigation. The paperrecommends a lexicographic ordering of canal irrigation distribution,under which irrigation water will be provided first to irrigate all theirrigable land of the smallest of farms, and after fulfilling theirdemands, it will fulfil the demands of the second smallest farm sizegroup, and so on.

Rajan K. Sampath, Zulfiqar A. Gill

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