RAIN AND ITS IMPACT ON AGRICULTURE

At present only 11 per cent of the total water resources were being stored in Pakistan

FROM SHAMIM A. RIZVI, 
ISLAMABAD

Mar 03 - 09, 2003
 

The countrywide torrential rains during last week, after a long dry spell have proved to be both a blessing and a calamity for the country. Unfortunately, many lives have been lost in fatal accidents and incidence of house collapses in the rural area, the rains, heaviest in the last decade have ended the droughts and brightened the prospects of Rabi Crop.

Experts estimate the wheat crop will exceed the target of 19.75 million tonnes this year despite the fact the area under wheat cultivation this year has slightly decline. The rains have come just at a time when the water in major reservoirs had dropped to close to the dead level. After a few days rains, all the rivers feeding these reservoirs has registered dramatic increase in water flows. This brought a sense of relief to the farmers in both the rains fed and irrigated areas. Equally pleased were the people living in the drought stricken parts of Sindh and Balochistan.

Before these rains, it was feared that the wheat crop will fall by about 1 million tonnes from its target of 19.75 million tonnes. Prospects of Rabi crop have been so brightened by these timely rains that now experts hope to have a hamper crop of 20.5 million tonnes despite a fall in area under wheat sowing. The wheat sowing has been completed over an area of 8.152 million hectares during current year, which is 1.4 per cent less than the corresponding period of the last year.

A target of 19.75 million tonnes has been set for wheat crop production for the year 2002-03. The wheat cultivation season which has already started both in Barani irrigated areas has covered over 8.080 million hectares and throughout the country to achieve the target.

According to Agriculture Department of Punjab wheat has been sown over an area of 6.193 million hectares, which is 0.3 per cent less than the corresponding period of the last year. However, the area sown is 103.2 per cent of the target.

In Sindh wheat was sown over an area of 0.858 million hectares, which is 2.1 per cent higher than the corresponding period of the last year. However, the area sown in 90.0 per cent of the target.

The wheat sowing in NWFP province is 0.796 million hectares which is 11.6 per cent less than the corresponding period of last year. The area sown is 88.4 per cent of the target.

In Balochistan province wheat was sown over an area of 0.305 million hectares, which is 4.7 per cent less than the corresponding period of the last year. However, the area sown is 92.1 per cent of the target.

In Barani areas, appropriate cultivation of wheat got underway from October 20 and in irrigated areas from November 1. Besides fertilizer, the seed protecting medicines have also been made available in the agricultural center, which should be mixed in seeds in prescribed proportion before cultivation, said the sources.

According to official sources the arid zone including Chakwal and Rawalpindi, Kohistan-97 and Kohasar are suitable varieties while Inqlab-91 is suitable for both Barani and irrigated areas of Punjab.

Although we have become self-sufficient in wheat production thanks to some attention paid to the agriculture during the last few years. It is however, still negligible in view of its huge potential. However, the responsibility for poor growth rate in agriculture sector is generally shifted to the shortage of water in the country, which seems close to the facts to a large extent, yet it is not the only reason for stagnant or declining growth rate in the agriculture sector. There is something more than what it meets to the eyes. The role of the big bugs in this sector should also be taken into account while reviewing the performance of the agriculture sector in Pakistan.

Besides the available cultivatable lands, Pakistan has yet to bring an area of 10.1 million acres of virgin land under plough. However, it needs plenty of water, which is one of the major impediments in the way of agriculture growth in Pakistan.

At present only 11 per cent of the total water resources were being stored in Pakistan, as no new water reservoirs had been constructed after Tarbela, while countries like China had built 6000 water reservoirs during this period. Since the per capita water availability is continued to drop, situation calls for a national consensus for developing small or big dams all over the country to meet the formidable challenges of water shortage.

The agriculture was hit by acute water shortage for the third successive year and as a result crop yield declined. The recent rains have come to rescue, but the excessive water available now will be wasted by falling into the sea because of shortage of store capacity in our dams. The construction of small dams and water reservoirs is the crying need of the time. This work should be done on was footing both in public and private sector. This is also essential to maintain the underground water to the minimum level necessary for the functioning of tube wells.