THE PAKISTAN DEVELOPMENT REVIEW
Managing Water Resources for Environmentally Sustainable Irrigated Agriculture in Pakistan
Pakistan’s agriculture is almost wholly dependent on irrigation and irrigated land supplies more than 90 percent of agricultural production. Irrigation is central to Pakistan’s economy. Massive investments in irrigation contributed to the development of one of the largest Indus Basin Irrigation System. Despite heavy budgetary inputs in irrigation system, it is facing shortage of resources and suffering from operational problems. The sustainability of irrigated agriculture is threatened due to problems of waterlogging and salinity, inadequate operation and maintenance, insufficient recovery of O&M expenditure, inequitable distribution, environmental degradation, institutional issues etc. The growing scarcity of water sets the future stage for intensive competition over water between agriculture and non-agricultural users. The growing need for food and fibre requirements of increasing population further limits the per capita availability of water. Due to the limited prospects for expanding irrigation facilities, the projected increase in irrigated agriculture will have to come from significant improvement in the performance of existing systems. Policy-makers and planners are of the view that Pakistan’s irrigated agriculture requires new strategies to enhance input efficiency and maintain and improve the quality of the resource base and to get the irrigation system out of crises. There is a global movement for searching a new type of relationship between the managers of irrigated agriculture and farmers. Such options are being considered by government at various levels to put the system on sustainable development path. In addressing the environmentally sustainable water resource management in Pakistan, the paper makes an attempt to provide an over-view of water resource issues and options.