Can't connect right now! retry

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!

add The News to homescreen

tap to bring up your browser menu and select 'Add to homescreen' to pin the The News web app

Got it!
May 4, 2021

Sindh farmers face setbacks on low water flows in canals


May 4, 2021

HYDERABAD: Farmers working the fields in Tando Muhammad Khan district are receiving water from perennial Akram Wah (canal) on a rotation-based system because of overall water scarcity in the canals and watercourses this season.

Although a weekly system is implemented during this season whenever there is a shortage of water, it has been observed that nowadays farmers are getting their water share after a fortnight or 21 days instead of weekly basis.

This long wait creates problems for farmers, some of whom are unable to save their sensitive crops.

Farmers believe that the irrigation canals usually receive more water during the Abkalani season when the River Indus brings plenty of water at the end of May or June, which continues to July, August and September.

Their life and the cycle of their crops depends on the river, which sometimes brings a deluge in the area, and at others times does not even fulfil the normal water requirements of canals for agriculture and drinking purposes.

It is because of this uncertainty that the irrigation authorities had introduced the weekly water-rotation system to avoid loss of crops and provide proper share for livestock and maintaining ecosystems.

However, farmers feel that if the river flowed properly and fed all the irrigation canals, wetlands and catchment areas with forests they could have proper supply of water.

To overcome water scarcity and avoid losses, the provincial government had initiated World Bank-funded Sindh Irrigated Agriculture Productivity Enhance Project (Siapep) with multiple components, including water lining in the entire province.

Water lining usually improves efficiency of watercourses to reach its tail-end within a short-period compared to traditional irrigation system.

Nabi Bux Sathio, a grower leader in Tando Muhammad Khan district, said they have received support for water lining from this project, which has enabled them able to receive proper water for crop sustainability.

Sathio is general secretary Sindh Abadgar Board (SAB), a leading growers’ body. He believes that the government-run initiative has motivated farmers to have their watercourses associations (WAs) to bring change through their own involvement in terms of crop productivity.

This six-year project, aiming to improve irrigation water management at tertiary and field level in the province, was launched in 2015 and may end in December 2021.

Mushtaq Nizamani, another grower in the district sharing his experiences said the lining of watercourses has benefited them in terms of covering distance shortly and stopping water seepage. He advised fellow farmers to get mobilised and form their own association for the lining of watercourses.

Under the criteria set by the government, the foreign funded project has to bear 80 percent share of the total cost of water body lining, while the farmers body has to pay 20 percent share as a labour cost required in the working.

The concept of water lining is to increase flow, reduce loss of water due to seepage and control water logging.

Ghulam Mustafa Ujan, environment specialists at Siapep said they have built 4,300 watercourses out of total 5,500 watercourses under this specific project under the six- year project period (2015 to 2021) in the entire province in collaboration with watercourses associations’.

These watercourse associations were formed to manage water bodies to avoid water losses and enhance agriculture productivity.

Water lining in Sindh was initiated in 1977 for the first time. So far, different government projects have completed 30,000 watercourses out of total around 50,000 watercourses.

It is a multi-component project which includes watercourses lining, high efficiency irrigation system or drip irrigation, provision of laser land levellers and launching farmers’ field schools to create awareness among farmers about technology transfer, use of certified seeds, preparing for land levelling and strengthening knowledge to avoid losses in case of disasters.

Kitchen gardening through framer women’s involvement is also a part of high efficiency irrigation system, which mostly benefits the community to have safe chemical-free food. It may also lead to entrepreneurship, where women sell their products at village level.

Ujan said they have so far covered 7,000 acres with drip irrigation systems out of the total 35,000 acres that they have to do as per the task.

During interviews it was observed that many of the farmers at this level were unaware of the environmental loss due to water lining, as some experts believe that traditional watercourses usually help recharge underground water levels to maintain the ecosystems. Water lining may impact the natural water recharging mechanisms.

Farmers are major stakeholders and managers of water bodies. They are affected the most by water scarcity, which sometimes creates frictions within farmers as well. To avoid this situation, farmers have been motivated to manage their own water bodies with mutual consent and consultations.

Abdul Rehman Halepoto of village Omar Halepoto, Hyderabad district said they have also formed eight watercourses associations under the same project, at the same Akram Wah (canal) to receive water lining, which is yet to be done.

Akram Wah has a capacity to flow 4,000 cusec water from Kotri Barrage to feed three districts Badin, Tando Muhammad Khan and Hyderabad. The farmers at Akram Wah produce almost all crops and also run orchards, but now some of them complain of seepage in different places, which was also causing salinity within one or two kilometre vicinity. Now they are concerned about soil fertility loss due to excessive seepage.

Halepoto realises that loss of soil fertility and increasing water logging in a wide area due to changing practices, like overuse of water for multi cropping, excessive use of chemical input and above all climate variations, could contribute to create agriculture productivity issues.

He himself uses indigenous seed varieties, farmyard manure and traditional practices to improve crop productivity. Previously, they never faced any difficulty in terms of soil infertility and low productivity of crops.

Akram Wah flows to its ultimate end at the Runn of Kuchh, while on its way feeding agriculture land of three districts.

Farmers also shared some success stories about high efficiency in water management, which ensured smooth flow and enhanced crop productivity.