Irrigation System of Pakistan

By Muhammad Hiader Ali

Irrigation System of Pakistan

 Pakistan, with a Geographical area of 796,096 square kilometers, possesses large rivers, like Indus which, along with its 5 tributaries, namely Chenab, Jhelum, Ravi, Kabul and Sutlej, forms one of the mightiest River-Systems of the world. The River-System comprises 2 storage reservoirs, 19 large rivers headworks, 43 Canal Systems measuring 58,000 kilometers, some 1.6 million kilometers of water-courses and field Irrigation Channels. Pakistan has big rivers like Indus, Chenab, Ravi, Jhelum and Sutlej, where discharges in summer season vary from 100 thousand Cusecs to 1,200 thousand Cusecs (3 thousand to 34 thousand cumecs) and can cause tremendous loss to human lives, crops and property. Due to limited capacity of storage at Tarbela and Mangla Dams on river Indus and Jhelum, with virtually no control on Chenab, Ravi and Sutlej, devastating problems are faced between July and October in the event of excessive rainfall in the catchments.

Pakistan comprises four major administrative units; Punjab, Sindh, North West Frontier Province and Balochistan, besides the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Pakistan's population as estimated in 2001 is 140 million. The population growth-rate is estimated at 2.1%. The overall density of population is 174.63 per kilometers. However, there is large regional variation in population density. Pakistan is a country with a very diverse social and geographic landscape. It comprises high mountains in the north, to desolate plateaus, fertile plains, sandy deserts, coastal beaches and mangrove forests in the south. It has the largest share of the highest mountain-peaks in the world and has more glaciers than any other land outside the North and South Poles. Pakistan's glacial area covers some 13,680 sq.km, which represents an average of 13 per cent of mountain-regions of the upper Indus-Basin.

2. The Development of The Irrigation System:

                     Controlled year round irrigation began in 1859 with the completion of the Upper Bari Doab Canal (UBDC) from Madhopur Headworks (now in India) on Ravi River. Until that time, irrigation was undertaken through a network of inundation canals, which were functional only during periods of high river flow. These provided water for kharif (summer) crops and some soil moisture for rabi (winter) crops.  

The last inundation canals were connected to weir controlled supplies in 1962 with the completion of Guddu Barrage on Indus River. UBDC was followed by Sirhind Canal from Rupar Headworks on Sutlej in 1872 (also in India) and Sidhnai Canal from Sidhnai Barrage on Ravi in 1886. The Lower Chenab from Khanki on Chenab in 1892, and Lower Jhelum from Rasul on Jhelum in 1901 followed suit. Lower and Upper Swat, Kabul River and Paharpur Canals in KPK were completed between1885 to 1914. 

By the turn of the century, it became apparent that the water resources of the individual rivers were not in proportion to the potential irrigable lands. Ravi River, serving a large area of Bari Doab, was deficient in supply while Jhelum had a surplus. An innovative solution was developed in the form of the Triple Canal Project, constructed during 1907 –1915. The project linked the Jhelum, Chenab, and Ravi rivers, allowing a transfer of surplus Jhelum and Chenab water to the Ravi. The Triple Canal Project as a land-mark in integrated.

In terbasin water resources management and also provided the key concept for the resolution of the Indus Waters Dispute between India and Pakistan in 1960. 

The Sutlej Valley Project, comprising of 4 barrages and 2 canals, was completed in 1933, resulting in the development of the unregulated flow resources of the Sutlej River and motivated planning for the Bhakra reservoir (now in India).  

During the same period, the Sukkur Barrage and its system of 7 canals serving 2.95 million hectares of land in Lower Indus were completed. Haveli and Rangpur from Trimmu Headworks on Chenab in 1939 and Thal Canal from Kalabagh Headworks on Indus were completed in 1947. This comprised the system inherited by Pakistan at the time of its creation in 1947.  

At independence, the irrigation system, conceived originally as a whole, was divided between India and Pakistan without regard to irrigated boundaries. This resulted in the creation of an international water dispute in 1948, which was finally resolved by the enforcement of Indus Waters Treaty in 1960 under aegis of the World Bank. The treaty assigned the three eastern rivers (Ravi, Beas, Sutlej) to India, with an estimated total mean annual flow of 33 million acre feet (MAF) and the three western rivers (Indus, Jhelum, Chenab) to Pakistan with a transfer of irrigation supplies from the western rivers to areas in Pakistan formerly served by the eastern rivers as well as some development potential to compensate for the perpetual loss of the eastern waters. The Indus Basin Project including Mangla Dam, 5 barrages, 1 syphon and 8 inter-river link canals, was completed during 1960-71, while Tarbela Dam started partial operation in 1975-76. 

After partition, Kotri, Taunsa and Guddu Barrages were completed on the Indus River to provide controlled irrigation to areas previously served by inundation canals. Also, three additional inter-river link canals were built prior to the initiation of Indus Basin Project. 

DETAIL OF SURFACE WATER AVAILABILITY

                                                         

 

RIVER

 

Average annual flow (1922-61)

Average annual flow (1985-95)

 

Average annual flow (2001-02)

 

Indus

93

62.7

48.0

Jhelum

23

26.6

11.85

Chenab

26

27.5

12.38

Ravi

7

5.0

1.47

Sutleg

14

3.6

0.02

Kabul

26

23.4

18.9

Total

189

148.8

92.62

 

4. Distribution of Area and Water:

                                                                                      During the year 1999-2000, the total irrigated area from all the sources, including private canals, schemes, wells and tubewells and publicly owned infrastructure was of the order of 18.06 million hectares. About 77.4% of the total irrigated area of Pakistan falls in Punjab, 2.8% area falls in NWFP and 19.8% in Sindh/ Balochistan.  

Based on the statistics of the last 10 years, the area irrigated by canals has increased slowly by an aggregate of 6% but its share in irrigated area has remained constant due to the continuous increase in the number of tubewells which now irrigate 20% more area than 10 years ago. 

 

 

DISTRIBUTION OF IRRIGATED AREA

 

 

Province

Total

Mha

Govt. Canal

%

Canal

Tubewells

%

Private

Canals

%

 

Tubewells

%

Canal

Wells

%

 

Wells

%

 

Other

%

 

Total

%

Punjab

13.84

28.4

50.5

….

19.1

0.7

0.9

0.4

100

Sindh

2.52

94.8

….

….

5.2

….

….

….

100

KPK

0.89

43.8

….

41.6

6.7

….

4.5

3.4

100

Balochistan

0.81

49.4

….

11.1

28.4

….

2.5

8.6

100

National

18.06

39.4

38.7

2.5

17

0.5

1

0.9

100

 

5. Irrigation Efficiencies:

                                                              Pakistan, despite being an agrarian country, has demonstrated extremely low irrigation efficiencies, creating problems related to water conservation and water logging and salinity. 

The crop yield in Pakistan is on the lower side. The current estimated irrigation efficiency in Pakistan is 35.5%. This means that only 35.5% of the water that reaches the fields is actually used by the crops. Irrigation efficiency is a compound of three efficiencies i.e. canal-head efficiency, watercourse efficiency and farm efficiency.

 

 

 

6. Escape to The Sea:

                                                     On an average about 39.4 MAF of water flows to the sea annually. Most of this flow occurs during the Kharif season when 36.94 MAF or 93.8% goes to the sea. In the Rabi season, on average about 2.44 MAF flows into the sea, and most of that is in the first few weeks of the season. For several months in the winter, there is no flow into the sea.  

During the last 25 years, a total flow of 984.75 MAF of river water has flowed into the sea. This is equivalent to more than 9 years of average canal withdrawals during the same period.  

 

7. Conclusion:

                                  Owing to scarcity of water, proper management of water-resources is essential for the Agriculture Sector, which is the largest user of water 97%. The development of Pakistan's economy strongly depends on its ability to properly operate and manage its water-resources. The efficient and effective use of all water- resources in Pakistan requires formulation and implementation of an appropriate water-sector policy. The Ministry of Water and Power is formulating a National Water Policy to face the challenges of water-scarcity. The overall objective is to utilize the available water resources to meet the socio-economic and environmental needs for sustainable development in the country.      

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