ISLAMABAD: The Asian Development Bank’s (ADB) Board of Directors has approved a $ 275 million loan to help build a surface irrigation system to increase agricultural production and improve food security in the Jhelum and Khushab districts in Punjab province in Pakistan. The project is expected to benefit 384,000 people.
“Having a sufficient and effective irrigation system is fundamental in the development of Pakistan’s agriculture sector, a significant driver of the country’s economy,” said ADB’s Central and West Asia Department Principal Water Resources Specialist Ryutaro Takaku. “ADB’s support will help increase agricultural production and improve food security in Pakistan,” he added.
According to a statement issued here on Friday, agriculture remains a crucial component of Pakistan’s economy, contributing 20 per cent of gross domestic product and employing 42 per cent of Pakistan’s total labour force in the fiscal year 2015, with Punjab contributing more than 80 per cent of agricultural output. Because of the country’s semi-arid climate, more than 90 per cent of agriculture output depends on irrigation.
Pakistan’s advantage is the Indus Basin Irrigation System, which draws water from the Indus River. However, about 20 per cent of the country’s cultivable area including the project area is outside the Indus Basin Irrigation System. Farming in most of these areas is rain-fed, resulting in low agricultural productivity. Some of the country’s poorest people live in these areas and depend on agriculture for their income.
The Jalalpur Irrigation Project will build a new seasonal irrigation system and convert over 68,000 hectares (ha) of less productive, predominantly rain-fed land to irrigated land by drawing water from the Jhelum River, one of the tributaries of the Indus River.
The project will construct a diversion structure, a 117-kilometre (km) main canal, 97-km secondary and tertiary canals, and 485 watercourses. The project will also assist in forming 485 water user associations (WUAs) and involve them in planning, designing, and construction of watercourses.
The WUAs and the farmers will be trained to improve their agriculture and water management capacity. Advanced technologies like laser land levelling and high-efficiency irrigation systems will be introduced by the project. About 660 agricultural demonstration plots will be established, and 6,000 farm households will learn climate-smart agriculture practices and more profitable farm management.
ADB, based in Manila, is dedicated to reducing poverty in Asia and the Pacific through inclusive economic growth, environmentally sustainable growth, and regional integration. Established in 1966, ADB is celebrating 50 years of development partnerships in the region. It is owned by 67 members, 48 from the region. In 2016, ADB assistance totalled $ 31.7 billion, including $ 14 billion in co-financing.