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Kachhi Canal: mega irrigation project set to bring green revolution in Balochistan

The Kachhi Canal project, almost an abandoned project, brought back on track this month after active support of the federal government and excellent work by Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) engineers. The project was re-energized and is likely to be operational soon. Following completion of the first phase of the project, the WAPDA recently began filling up the 363-kilometre-long main canal with water. Located in Punjab, it is a 363 kilometer long canal, out of which 281 kilometer is in Punjab and 80 kilometer is in Balochistan. It starts from Taunsa Barrage at Indus River. Cost of the project, after its revision is now Rs80.5 billion. The water infrastructure and irrigated agriculture in Balochistan will achieve a landmark soon through this project completion.

The multi-billion-rupee project was launched during the regime of retired Gen Pervez Musharraf in 2002 and was supposed to be ready by the end of 2008. However, the project missed several deadlines due to lack of funds and other problems. Now, the Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, this month, inaugurated the Kachhi Canal project in Dera Bugti to provide sustainable irrigation water supply to 72,000 acres of agricultural land bringing green revolution in Balochistan. The Prime Minister said this vital project was re-initiated by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in 1998; however, it became victim to gross cost overrun and long delays. As the project was started in 2002 funds for it was released by the former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.

Keeping in view the importance of the project it was revitalized with the active support of the federal government and commitment of WAPDA. Kachhi Canal project would change destiny of the people of Dera Bugti. Pakistan owes to people of Sui as the entire country gets benefitted due to their natural gas.

The Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi assured the people of Dera Bugti that the issues of water and natural gas would be resolved on priority base. He said the time was not far when Balochistan would become the most prosperous province of Pakistan. He said Rs200 billion were being spent on various water projects in the province while Rs25 billion power projects were underway. A huge amount of Rs455 billion were spent on roads and highways in Balochistan of which most of the projects had been completed. Rs15 billion would be spent on providing natural gas to each district headquarter of the province.

Kachhi Canal has come true with government taking yet another credit for successful implementation of an otherwise moribund project. As the project, inaugurated by Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi would irrigate 72,000 acres of land in far-flung areas of Dera Bugti district, the premier rightly observed that it was not an ordinary project, as it would change destiny of people of the district.

 

Kachhi Canal off-takes from Taunsa Barrage on Indus River and passes through districts Muzaffargarh, Dera Ghazi Khan, Rajanpur in Punjab and then meanders through districts Dera Bugti, Naseerabad, Bolan and Jhal Magsi in Balochistan, the province in which the project’s command area lies and that is why it has been described by Mr Abbasi as symbol of love between the two provinces. “This project is a symbol of love between two provinces,” Abbasi added, explaining that the 300-kilometre canal runs from Punjab and provides water to Balochistan.

Kachhi Canal is also known as ‘Green Revolution’ project of Balochistan as besides irrigating barren lands and the resultant prosperity for local population it would also mitigate drinking water needs of about two million people in an area where water is scarce and a big problem. People facing impediments mainly because of the law and order situation, law enforcing agencies’ restrictions and shortage of funds shall benefit from this project.

It was initiated about fifteen years back and could not make any headway during tenures of two successive governments that miserably failed to remove bottlenecks in its implementation. No doubt, irregularities, floods, torrential rains, limited working hours and adverse law and order situation in the tribal areas of Rajanpur in Punjab and Dera Bugti in Balochistan, major constraint in completion of this high profile project was inadequate PSDP funding.

Projects like this can genuinely change the socio-economic landscape of Balochistan as these have the potential to engage hundreds of thousands of people in positive pursuits, preventing them from falling into hands of mischief-mongers.

No investment is high enough to realize the objective of bringing backward and neglected areas at par with other regions of the country. Prosperity delayed is a crime and a major change throughout the country can be effected if all provincial governments and governments of Gilgit-Baltistan and Azad Kashmir realize this concept and prepare and implement area-specific programs and projects for uplift of backward regions.

It appears that for the first time the government has undertaken a step in Balochistan that may actually go to the benefit of the Baloch people. Its second and third phases are planned to extend across the Kachhi plain and beyond it to the Jhal Magsi, Bolan and Naseerabad districts.

On the occasion, the Prime Minister also said that the project would change the destiny of the people in the Dera Bugti area, adding that Balochistan will become the country’s richest province. A part of the long-deprived province is to benefit from the waters of the Indus via the new canal, enabling it to draw its rightful share from what is the lifeblood of agriculture in this country.

Another means of livelihood will thus become available to the people of Dera Bugti, for whom the Sui gas field is among very limited sources of steady income. Increase land values will also register a rise. For most its length of 363 kilometer in the first phase, only 81 kilometer lies in Balochistan.

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