June 22 - 28, 2009

The Punjab government has allocated an amount of Rs3.2 billion for the agricultural sector in the annual development programme (ADP) for 2009-10. The allocation is Rs200 million up from the allocations made for the financial year 2008-09.

Out of the total proposed allocation, the provincial government has planned to spend Rs625.888 million for water management, Rs1228.137 million for agriculture extension, Rs1027.736 million for agriculture research, and Rs251.739 million for agriculture mechanisation.

The objectives for agriculture sector outlined in the budget are: food security management in holistic manner, emphasis on innovative technologies to increase productivity and increase farmers' incomes through increased crop productivity, better prices and diversified agriculture practices. Other objectives include promoting efficient use of water through precision land levelling and efficient use of (drip and sprinkler) irrigation systems, encouraging public-private partnership in research and value chains, improving availability of agriculture credit especially for small and medium farmers, revamping extension and research services and ensuring better vertical and horizontal linkages.

According to the budget document, strategic interventions proposed in the budget 2009-10 for increasing agriculture productivity include: promotion of cotton in Thal through pressurised irrigation over 5,000 acres; promotion of tunnel technology for vegetable production; productivity enhancement of wheat by providing 25,000 hand sprayers; 3,772 placement drills, rabi drills, 1,617 and 510 seed graders; and mechanised rice planting through private sector service providers for optimal plant population.

The government plans to extend Competitive Grant System to conduct need based research through Punjab Agricultural Research Board (PARB); research on salt affected soils and brackish water zones; and research on bio-technology and genetics water efficiency (conveyance and application).

The Punjab government has planned development of alternate/renewable farm energy resources, initiation of pilot project for adoption of biogas technology to mitigate energy crisis and pilot testing of solar irrigation pumps. The government intends to introduce highly efficient drip and sprinkler irrigation systems (138,788 acres), develop command area of Greater Thal Canal (725 water courses and laser levelling of 36,000 acres), improve service delivery of provincial reference fertiliser and pesticides testing lab, and improve database for optimal resource management and digitised agriculture land profiling to develop suitable cropping patterns.

The Punjab government has also allocated a sum of two billion rupees for the development of livestock sector, while for forestry, fisheries and wildlife an amount of Rs900 million has been proposed.

Construction of Diamer-Bhasha dam will start in 2009-10. Industrial experts expressed pleasure over the allocation of Rs8000 million in the budget 2009-10 for the construction of Diamer-Bhasha dam.

According to them, the construction of this dam would ensure green revolution in the country by producing 4500 MW power and building big water storage facility, which would help meeting the demand of electricity and water for irrigation. The generation of 4,500 MW inexpensive hydro electricity from Diamer-Bhasha dam would reduce the dependence on thermal power, result in saving of huge foreign exchange and make available 6.4 MAF of water for irrigation.

The project would also create massive infrastructure and job opportunities leading to the overall socio-economic uplift of the area, they added. Diamer-Bhasha dam is planned at Indus River near Chilas area of northern areas having some portion lying in the area of district Kohistan, NWFP. The construction of the project is expected to begin in September this year and will be completed within seven year. It is pertinent to mention that Diamer-Bhasha dam will be the highest Roller Compacted Concrete dam in the world having height of 272 meters.