Punjab government gives go ahead for Rs22bn agriculture programme despite expired contracts

LAHORE: Punjab government has given go-ahead for the Rs 22.813 billion Punjab Irrigated Agriculture Productivity Programme, despite the expiry of contracts for implementation and supervision consultants (PISCs).

The go-ahead was given to the old consultants in place as the government failed to hire new consultants.

Sources told Pakistan Today that the contracts for the current consultants were to expire on December 31, however, Punjab Agriculture Directorate General (DG) could not finalise the hiring of new consultants in time. “These consultants have also been providing technical assistance to Punjab Agriculture DG for the achievement of project objectives,” they added.

These consultants are not only responsible for the supervision of construction but other various responsibilities including completed works and payment requirements of all works carried out under the project, support in overall project management, procurement, financial management, social and environmental management and reporting progress on project achievements.

They said that the PISCs were also engaged in assignments to provide requisite consultancy services for developing an overall framework of the monitoring and evaluation plan including collecting, analysing, and reporting project data for continual effective tracking of project development objectives.

Formulating a set of key performance indicators and means of assessment against these indicators for project activities also falls under their ambit.

The Rs 22.813 billion project was kicked off in April 2012 with the main objective to improve the productivity of water use in irrigated agriculture to be achieved through improved physical delivery efficiency and irrigation practices, crop diversification and effective application of inputs.

The work on the installation of Rs 6.644 billion core component of High-Efficiency Irrigation System (HEIS) has been moving at a snail pace, as it has only covered 32,252 acres against a target of 120,000 acres up till now.

According to reports, the delay in the installation was not only putting off loan disbursements and increasing programme costs but also holding up the economic benefit of the project which is estimated at Rs 46.843 billion.

The installation of the HEIS will enable farmers to have a double capacity of cultivating crops and vegetables in both the Rabi and Kharif seasons. “HEIS is an initiative to increase the efficiency of water use from 40 per cent to 95 per cent”, the sources informed.

Being conservative, the analysis was done considering that only 80 per cent of the area fitted with HEIS would be cultivated with vegetables after harvesting cotton. Similarly, the area earmarked for vegetables and fitted with HEIS would be cultivated 100 per cent in Rabi season and 80 per cent in Kharif season. It has been further assumed that increase in yields and benefits would be less in the first year and full during the second year.

The HEIS will be installed in a range of sizes starting from one acre to 15 acres. However, costs and benefits estimates were prepared for three acres, five acres, 10 acres and 15 acres units as these points are assumed to appropriately define the cost and benefits curves.

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