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Balochistan requires fresh development policy on fast track basis

Balochistan is the country’s largest province, with nearly 44 percent of its surface area and a thinly dispersed population of around 8.5 million. The present provincial government need to formulate a new strategy for development of Balochistan on fast track basis. The issues related to the development are complicated and demand realistic assessment for their solution. Prevailing socio-economic conditions demand a new development strategy for the ever-neglected province, which is mired in widespread poverty. The government should formulate a strategy realizing the sense of deprivation, frustration and alienation, which is further fueling unrest in Balochistan. Firstly, the government should take steps to improve law and order, strengthen the enabling environment for the private sector and improving the management of natural resources. The government’s new strategy should focus on the full empowerment of the people of Balochistan. People must be recognized as stakeholders in the decision-making process and their interests must be placed at the top of the list of priorities.

The key areas need to be focused in the new strategy include poverty alleviation, human development, agriculture and water development.

The new development strategy should resolve basic issues such as poverty, unemployment and lack of basic amenities through its. It should identify engendering growth, managing scarce water resources, focusing on governance reforms, improving human development and addressing vulnerability to shocks as key areas needed to be addressed seriously in order to tackle various issues including poverty. Poverty in the province is a consequence of several factors, including geography and low human capital. Many of these factors increase the cost of providing social services in Balochistan.

The backwardness and poverty should be explicitly incorporated in the allocation of shared transfers, and they should be more comprehensively measured through an index that uses multiple indicators. These may be broadly categorized as socioeconomic and demographic indicators related to income and wealth, housing, transport and communication, education, health, gender equality, etc. for example, some of the indicators used in the human development index would be relevant.

Human development indicators needs to be improved in Balochistan. The challenges or hurdles are the predominantly patriarchal social structures and gender equity. The difficult terrain, limited water resources for irrigation, large illiterate population, ethnic diversity, and traditional women’s status are added challenges to economic growth and human development in the province. Though poverty in the province is more “shared” poverty, income-based inequities in human development must be addressed. To meet the needs of the people, educational institutions and vocational training centres must be established across the province.

Balochistan is blessed with extensive groundwater resource. According to the hydrological map of Pakistan, out of total three main hydrologic units, two are located in Balochistan. These hydrologic units are: Indus River basin, Kharan desert basin and Makran coastal basin. Unfortunately, water is considered a threatened resource in the province.

The new development strategy should call for managing groundwater on a sustainable-use basis, recognizing the need for a great deal of planning, besides evaluating current practices such as the use of delay action dams. It should focus on improving the management of deficient water resources by reducing the overall impact of the present water crisis.

 

The groundwater tables are on decline due to mismanagement of water resource in the province. Besides streams, other sources are at the risk of over exploitation. The most important use of water is for irrigation purposes in Balochistan. The long-term water management program in Balochistan will meet a long felt need of the province for adequate quantity of water for agriculture, especially the expanding acreage of fruit orchards. Fruits are major source of income in areas where water is scarce. Expansion in fruit area is generally constrained by water availability. Trickle Irrigation System has been recognized as a method of irrigation which provides maximum possible irrigation water efficiency and which is claimed to be upto 90%.

On the agriculture side, the objectives of the new development strategy should be increasing output and raise per capita income in an efficient and sustainable manner with particular emphasis on enhancing productivity and improving natural resources management which are “critical” for redefining the future of water in the province. Agricultural growth is linked to the development of water resources. Agriculture with respect to source of water may be classified as canal irrigated, Karezat irrigated, tubewell irrigated and rainfed or barani agriculture. About 229,824 hectares of area in the province is irrigated by tub-wells. Over 75 percent of the population in the province, is rural. Except Naseerabad district, there is no perennial system of irrigation except in Naseerabad and Jafferabad districts. The crops contribute about 62 percent of gross farms income. Agriculture employs 67 percent of province’s total work force.

The fruit crops in northern Balochistan are adversely affected by scarcity of water, as tube wells are not operating fully and efficiently for power shortage. The power shortage problem frequently brings disaster to food crops including onion, potatoes, zeera, and Lusan and green vegetables. There are many districts and tehsils like Mastung, Kalat, Khad Kocha, Manguchar, Gidar, Naushki, Abad, Kanak, Dulai, Ahmadwal, Diringar, Mal, Dasht, and Spilinji, which are hard-hit by water crisis due to the frequent power breakdown. These are the areas where onions and potatoes are grown in bulk. Many farmers have abandoned growing these crops for water problem.

The farmers are presently facing difficult time in Balochistan. The continual load shedding and frequent power breakdown often creates an artificial drought in the province adversely affecting agriculture, the mainstay of local economy. Despite power breakdown, fluctuation in power supply has inflicted additional losses to farmers.

Realistically speaking, proper and regular supply of electricity resurrects agriculture, the key sector of local economy. There is a dire need to take steps for reducing transmission losses from the grid and eliminate frequent power breakdown or unscheduled load shedding. The government should continue the flat rates for the supply of electricity to the growers for agricultural purposes in view of the miserable socio-economic conditions of local growers.

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