HYDERABAD: An overall low flow in the River Indus has compelled irrigation authorities to adopt rotation system in distributaries, leaving farmers in a drought-like situation, especially tail-enders that are yet to complete sowing of wheat and mustard crops, The News has learnt.
Rotation in distributaries makes it hard for the farmers to get required water to continue cultivation and save standing crops.
According to leading farmers of the area, River Indus usually gets a share of more than 50,000 cusecs of water every year from Punjab starting from the first week of November for wheat sowing in Sindh without any disruption. This year, however, Sindh government accused Punjab of stealing their share by allowing their canals to flow, including flood ones, and releasing only 35,000 cusecs to Sindh, depriving its farmers of their due share.
Due to shortage in the river along barrages, all canals are getting little water that cannot feed their distributaries.
Presently, the demand of water is high but supply is quite low, according to local farmers.
Akram Wah is a perennial canal that starts flowing from Kotri Barrage and has a capacity of 4400 cusecs. Now legal allocation for this canal is set at 2,580 cusecs but it gets only 1,100 cusec, which is insufficient.
Farmers at Kadhan, Qazia Wah, in Badin district are protesting against water shortage, saying, “They get water through Akram Wah, but this year the entire tail-end distributaries did not receive water, forcing them to take to highways”.
When asked, irrigation officials justified the rotation system, arguing they have only option to distribute available water to all distributaries.
Despite shortage in overall irrigation system, the poor governance could not be ruled out, leading farmers said, adding that it had affected sowing of wheat and mustard, besides disrupting preparation of other traditional crops like isabgol.
Reports from taluka Kaloi, the barrage area of Tharparkar district, show farmers have cultivated only 25 percent of the arable land with wheat and mustard. For instance, they said some farmers were expecting to cover 30 acres of land with wheat, but due to early closure of watercourses they could hardly sow the staple on only seven or more acres.
For Kaloi farmers, wheat and mustard are major crops in the area coming through generations. In case of delay in cultivation of these crops they have another option to cultivate isabgol. But it depends on the water phenomenon. Kaloi area farmers get water through Rann branch of Mithrao canal, which has been closed partially, impacting badly on the wheat sowing. Wheat requires fortnightly water at its early stage, but farmers hardly get their turn after 21 days.
Presently, the hue and cry over water shortage was echoing from parts of Badin, Umerkot, Mirpurkhas, Tharparkar districts, and all tail-end areas, where water shortage is common in case of low flowing canals.
Traditionally, the irrigation system not only benefits agriculture in these tail-end areas, but it also serves the drinking needs of livestock and local population near some towns.
Hajan Leghari, a small farmer in Jhudo said being tail-enders they got water through Jerkus branch, which presently did not carry enough water and they were uncertain if they would be able to save their crops and manage livestock.
The Sindh irrigation authorities have already closed non-perennial canals, Phuleli and Piniari, flowing from the Kotri Barrage in mid-October, despite the fact the rice crop, standing at its feeding areas, required two-three more waters before it’s ready for harvesting.
Growers in Sujawal and parts of Badin depend on these two canals –Phuleli and Pinmiari- for irrigation water, where late cultivated rice crop could not receive water this season, causing losses for producers.
Farmers from Jati, Sujawal district, could not receive water through lower Piniari (part of main canal), owing to its abrupt closure and only influential landlords, who were lifting water from leftover streams through machines, were proceeding with cultivation. Other farmers are sitting idle.
Elders of the area say the climate change as well as uncertain water supply in irrigation system has disrupted the crops calendar. For example, rice cultivation, which required water for its natural maturity, had been much delayed in many areas, they added. This water shortage has delayed wheat sowing in many advanced areas, which may dent productivity big time.
Besides, agriculture water shortage in the river has also affected all inland water bodies, especially lakes and wetlands, which presently do not get a clear share from irrigation system, river, canals, and distributaries. These water bodies get their share whenever rivers and canals have extra water to offer, which brings fresh seeds and fertile silt to these bodies. Hundreds of fishermen and artisan families depend on these water bodies for livelihood.
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