Mar 10 - 16, 2008

"In every drop of water there is a grain of gold." (Uzbek proverb).

Like Drip and Sprinkler modern irrigation technologies, China has also developed "Drop Irrigation" technology, which is expected to bring substantial relief to countries facing the problem of water shortage in the world.

Chinese irrigation experts have developed this technology, employing drop irrigation method under plastic film. Drop irrigation is the blend of Israeli drop irrigation method and the Chinese technique of using plastic film in farming. This new method has proven effectively successful in substantially saving and conserving irrigation water in arid areas, as compared to flood irrigation method.

Field experiments conducted in China have shown that this technology can save water consumption by 50 percent as compared with conventional methods of irrigation like flood irrigation.

Another advantage is that it can increase yield between 10 to 20 percent and can bring about many other economic gains. Over and above these evaporation losses can be reduced significantly, which is another big saving of water in arid regions.

This technology was developed and initially tested in 1980's in northwest China, especially in Shehezi, which is an arid region with an annual rain-fall of 100 to 200 mm and an annual evaporation rate as high as 2000 to 2400 mm. Agriculture depends completely on irrigation and water consumption there is 500 cubic meters per mm (0.067/hectare).

While this technology has been practised on an area of more than 113,000 hectares in major arid regions of China in Xingjian, it is expected to be expanded to more than 266,000 hectares in the aforesaid region in the near future.

We must take this technology from China and employ it in our arid areas of Thal, Cholistan and Balochistan, where water is scarce and rainfalls are rare, however it must be pointed out that for introducing such modern technologies the first and foremost thing is to mentally prepare the farmers community to adopt them in their best interests. If they are not given necessary awareness and re-orientation, these methodologies and technologies will merely remain a bookish subject. Therefore, farmers must be motivated and educated as to the know-how thereof and possible benefits to be accrued from them. Another important point to be pondered over by our government authorities and policy makers is the cost involved in putting these modern technologies into practice including the procurement of material and labour cost. If the government is really farmer-friendly, as it claims, it must share the cost -rather to start with farmers should be given the required material free of cost along-with practical demonstration in the fields and farms. Surely, without the participation of the government in funding, extension service and the community, a new technology like this cannot be adopted and implemented by our resource-less farmers. At the outset drop irrigation technology can be limited to gardening and horticulture cultivation for reasons of economy. Thereafter its application can be further expanded to any level.

In China the Xingjian Tianye Co. Ltd. has further improved upon this technology by developing a "drop irrigation belt." Reportedly, the price per meter of this belt is 0.2 Yuan (US$ 0.024), which is equivalent to one fifth of the cost involved on the same type of irrigation equipment in the world market. Accordingly, the drop irrigation belt developed by the afore-mentioned company costs Yuan 5,250 (US$ 634) per hectare of the crop area as compared with drop irrigation equipment originally developed by Israel.

This technology is being confided in by farmers as a breakthrough and an effective innovation in the water conservation history of the world. A farmer in Shihezi, Wang Xingui has been using the drop irrigation under plastic film technology in the cultivation of cotton for four years. Wang states that his family which cultivated 2,900 mm (193 hectares) of cotton expects to earn 1.5 million Yuan (US$ 180,000) by the end of the year.

The Xingjian Tianye Co. Ltd, which had developed drop irrigation belt at a nominal cost, as mentioned above, had signed a contract with a cotton investment company in Tajikistan, whereby drop irrigation technology, together with its own, drop irrigation belts and fertilizer to be used to grow 32 hectares of cotton in arid areas of Tajikistan in 2001. On completion of the contract, it was observed that irrigation water and fertilizer consumption were reduced by 70 percent and 30 percent respectively. Surprisingly per hectare seed cotton (Phutti) output increased by 218 percent to more than three tons as against 1.9 tons produced last year. The income per hectare grew by US$202.

In the backdrop of growing shortage of water irrigation, the government of Pakistan was already endeavouring to use drip irrigation over about 300,000 acres of land during the year 2007 for which the federal and provincial governments were supposed to provide 80 percent subsidy on the procurement of material and equipment for dip irrigation. The government has already allocated Rs.75 billion for subsidized drip irrigation during the next five years, after a successful implementation of a drip irrigation project by NIAB. Now that China has already developed their drop irrigation technology and the same has proven most successful in saving irrigation water, increasing the yield per acre, efficiency of fertilizer and reducing evaporation of water in sandy and arid areas in China, our Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Agriculture Scientists, experts of water management and other stake holders must not feel shy to study and assess the viability, efficiency and aspects of economy of Chinese drop irrigation technology already in vogue in Xingjian, which is one of the major arid regions of China. They should also contact and communicate with the Xingjian Tianye Co. Ltd. which has improved upon this technology and developed drop irrigation belt which, for reasons of economy and efficiency, has far excelled the original technology.

Our futurist approach should be to facilitate modern irrigation systems with increased water efficiency and better outputs. At the same Pakistan stands in urgent need of increasing its area of cultivation to increase production of their major and minor crops so as to meet their indigenous requirements, domestic as well as industrial sectors and maintain and improve its tempo of exports. Amongst these major crops cotton needs a special mention, which provides mainstay to millions of our cotton growers, raw material to our ginning, spinning and weaving mills of our textile sector, which is the main source of our foreign exchange earnings to the tune of 60 65 percent and provides employment to thousands of workers: un-skilled, skilled, managers and other professionals.

We cannot keep pace with the other largest cotton producing countries without increasing the area of cotton cultivation and without adopting the modern technologies of hybrid seed and without acquiring our own modern technologies of irrigation like "drip" and "drop" irrigation, suiting our ecological conditions.