ISLAMABAD: The Punjab government has increased the water rates for irrigating crops to Rs400-2,000 per acre per year with effect from the Rabi season 2023-24.
A notification of the Punjab Irrigation Department issued on December 5, signed by the Secretary of Irrigation, says the Punjab governor is pleased to revise Abiana (water rates) for main crops for irrigation purposes.
As per the notification, water rates have increased for Kharif crops, which include sugarcane to Rs1,600 per acre, rice Rs2,000, cotton Rs1,000, vegetables Rs1,200, maize Rs1,200, orchard Rs1,000, and fruits Rs1,000, per acre every year.
For Kharif crops, water prices have been revised for wheat to Rs400, gram 200, (pulses Rs400, oil seeds Rs400, fodder 400 in both Rabi and Kharif seasons), vegetables Rs1,200, and fruits Rs1,000 per acre.
In addition, the Punjab government has also notified the price of Rs2,000 per acre as an additional water rate for sanctioned gardens and Rs2,250 per acre every year for state-owned lift irrigation.
Earlier, the annual water price was Rs80 per acre in the Kharif season and Rs125 in the Rabi season. However, KP and Punjab governments in different areas are charging water up to Rs400 per acre annually. The revised prices are still the lowest.
The federal government is already in the process of working on new water pricing in consultation with provincial governments under which the four federating units would also finance national water projects such as dams in the country. According to top officials in the Water Resources Ministry, there are estimates that a revenue of Rs300-325 billion could be earned by the four federating units, and it could be utilised to upgrade respective irrigation systems and finance future national water projects such as dams.
However, the taskforce on water in 2012 recommended that the cost of pumping out the groundwater for one-acre stands at $25-$80, which should be the price of surface water per acre in one year. If the government starts charging the minimum $25 (Rs7,000) per acre annually from farmers, the revenue will go up to Rs300-325 billion since Pakistan has 45 million acres of agricultural land. The Council of Common Interests (CCI), the officials said, has already approved the National Water Policy in 2018, but the provincial irrigation departments are not taking the required prices of water from landlords and farmers.
They said the World Bank would be approached to explore the possibility of providing technical assistance and financial assistance by the way of deploying a team of experts in the fields of agriculture, cropping pattern, land and soil types and infrastructure development.
The team will study the Indus Basin Irrigation System (IBIS) and areas that are outside the Indus Basin like in Balochistan in order to develop a rational and robust water pricing mechanism as well as suggest an effective enforcement. The World Bank would also suggest an effective enforcement methodology.
The study would also focus on the land use classification with a clear delineation of areas presently receiving irrigation water along with the cropping pattern being followed by farmers during Rabi and Kharif seasons.
The study would also emphasize the delineation of areas representing soil types along with their fertility potential besides mapping irrigation infrastructure covering the whole range from a barrage or dam to the farm-level irrigation channels.
The World Bank would also conduct a study on the water requirements of crops being grown in the Indus Basin system and Balochistan and would work on water availability in terms of surface and groundwater supplies to farms.
Reliability and efficiency of water supplies to farmers in terms of timeliness and adequacy of water required at the time of irrigating crops would also be part of the study.
The study would also cover a social survey to assess the willingness to pay the water price by farmers to the government.