ISLAMABAD: Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Tuesday approved a $200 million loan to construct an irrigation system to help boost the agricultural productivity of a number of southern arid-zone districts of Punjab province.
The project loan, denominated in Japanese yen, will be spent on the construction of the second branch or Choubara system of the Greater Thal Canal irrigation scheme, according to an official statement.
The scheme will provide reliable irrigation water supply to 704,000 hectares of land in Bhakkar, Jhang, Khushab, Layyah, and Muzaffargarh districts, increasing their agricultural productivity. The Main Canal and the first branch or Mankera system have already been constructed.
Commenting on the development, Yevgeniy Zhukov, ADB Director General for Central and West Asia, said given Pakistan’s vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, it was essential to build irrigation infrastructure for climate-resilient and sustainable agriculture.
“ADB’s support will help boost the supply of local produce and promote food security, while increasing economic growth,” Zhukov added.
The multilateral donor in its official handout said Punjab was the main source of food production for Pakistan’s growing population, producing a significant portion of the country’s wheat, rice, sugarcane, and maize.
Because of Pakistan’s semi-arid climate, agricultural production is highly dependent on irrigation.
Yet, irrigation efficiency remains low due to water shortages, land degradation, and mismanagement of water resources.
The Choubara branch system, ADB will help construct, comprises a 72 kilometer branch canal, 11 secondary canals totaling 251 kilometers, and 11 tertiary canals totaling 127 kilometers.
ADB will also help develop on-farm agricultural command areas, pilot water conservation technologies such as land leveling and high efficiency irrigation systems and train farmers in water management and climate-resilient agricultural practices.
The Main Canal and Mankera branch areas have around 49,000 farmer households and about 38,000 in the Choubara branch areas. Most of these households own less than five hectares of land.
Natsuko Totsuka, ADB Principal Portfolio Management Specialist, said by integrating infrastructure and agricultural interventions, this project would directly support smallholder farmers to manage their limited resources more efficiently and maximise the benefits from irrigated agriculture.
“The project will strengthen the capacity of local authorities to maintain these irrigation systems, boost rural economic growth and help to reduce poverty in the province,” Totsuka said.
Pakistan is a founding member of ADB. Since 1966, ADB has committed more than $36.31 billion to promote inclusive economic growth and improve the country’s infrastructure, energy and food security, transport networks, and urban and social services.
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