A massive reduction of 30 per cent in budgetary funds for developing water resources and flood damages slowed down the implementation of related projects in the outgoing financial year 2010-11, leading to failure in achieving planned targets to overcome water scarcity, documents show.
An amount of almost Rs19 billion is expected to be utilised for the development of water sector by the end of June this year. The government had allocated Rs28.4 billion for the sector in the budget for 2010-11, but later revised it downwards to Rs19.88 billion due to financial constraints.
According to the Annual Plan 2011-12, during the outgoing financial year, the saving of water losses at farm gate and availability of additional water, after the completion of Mangla Dam Raising project, are expected to be about 3.46 million acre feet (MAF).
The water sector development plan for the year 2010-11 focused on the construction of small and medium-sized dams, new canals, rehabilitation and remodeling of existing irrigation systems, safe disposal of drainage effluent and introduction of high-efficiency and flood control systems.
Maximum resources were allocated to complete the ongoing projects and high-priority water storage dams in an effort to overcome the scarcity of water. However, the planned targets could not be achieved due to a hefty cut in the overall development budget, says the Annual Plan.
During 2010-11, the overall physical progress on fast-track high-priority projects namely Mangla Dam Raising, Satpara and Gomal Zam dams remained satisfactory whereas progress on new canals including Greater Thal, Kachhi and Rainee Canals, lining of irrigation channels and improvement of irrigation infrastructure in Punjab, Sindh and Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa remained short of the set targets due to rationalisation of the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP) and flood damages.
The government had anticipated additional water availability of 3.7 MAF in 2010-11 and 93 per cent of the target has been achieved.
Budget allocation cut sharply for 2011-12
Though the share of water sector in the total development budget remained between 16 and 20 per cent during the last five years, the allocation in the budget for 2011-12 has declined to about 12 per cent. Most of the funds have been earmarked for timely completion of ongoing projects, including construction of small and medium-sized dams, drainage projects, new canals and improvement in irrigation network.
The target for additional water availability next financial year has been set at 1.89 MAF and it is expected that overall water availability at farm gate will remain at about 142 MAF. This will include surface water supplies through canal withdrawals, water course improvement, canal lining and remodeling, irrigation system rehabilitation programme and construction of small and medium dams.
About 48.63 MAF of water will be included in the system from underground fresh water resources, mainly by private tube wells. Saving of water losses will be improved through a major emphasis on water conservation measures. Mangla Dam Raising and Satpara dam are likely to be completed this year. Gomal Zam dam structure has been completed while the irrigation network will be completed in 2012.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 5th, 2011.
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