Mohar lift irrigation project hits snags

25,000 acres of land awaits promised water


Shoukat Hayat Malik April 22, 2020
A Reuters file photo of an agricultural field.

KHUSHAB: The Mohar Lift Irrigation Programme (MLIP) launched 28 years ago in Khushab to revitalise 25,000 acres of barren land of Daman Mahar is yet to be completed as the authorities have failed to determine the fate of the scheme.

The total cost of the project was estimated at Rs2 billion back in the days and it was 75% complete when flash floods in 1994 and 1995 destroyed the buildings, canals and bridges made for it, Irrigation Department Divisional Officer of Khushab Sheikh Athar Ilahi told The Express Tribune.

“Inquiries were conducted and a special team formed by the chief minister Punjab also inspected the area. However, later on, the project was handed over to the Mianwali development division,” he remarked.

The officer further added that Member National Assembly (MNA) Malik Umar Aslam recently had contacted the provincial government to deliberate on the project’s feasibility. He confirmed that so far no updates have been received in this regard. “Unless the feasibility is established we cannot determine the new project cost estimates.”

Experts say the project could have helped lift thousands of farmers out of poverty.

The 12-foot wide and 25-kilometre long canal would have regenerated thousands of acres of infertile land of Mozu Chanki, Jibbi, Nara, Kand-o-Heer, Nilli, Nari, Pera Makhal, Katha, Saghral, Daiwal and Karar.

A local cultivator, Malik Ameer Awan, said, “The canal had been excavated back in those days but now it is filled with mud and shrubs and the constructed bridges are dilapidated.”

“Had this project been completed, it would have been revolutionary for the area. We still hope someone understands how much prosperity this project can bring to our region,” he said

Local farmers had anticipated an end to unemployment with this project. Their hopes were shattered as the project was halted and never constructed completely.

“Unfortunately the project has been marred by politics and corruption. Machinery and motors worth millions of rupees have disappeared due to the government’s negligence,” Malik Zafar Ali, a farmer, revealed.

The residential and office buildings that had been constructed to facilitate the project are in ruin or were demolished, he added.

Locals have appealed to Prime Minister Imran Khan to complete the irrigation project to give relief to the downtrodden agriculturists and investigate corruption so that the area can witness an economic boom in these troubling times.

“Malik Omar Aslam Awan is the MNA of our constituency and he belongs to the ruling party. He should play his role in the completion of this project,” a local farmer said on the condition of anonymity.

The project had been undertaken in 1992 under the Khushal Pakistan scheme. It was one of the most modern agricultural promotion projects of the time.

Uplift drip and sprinkler irrigation system installation, as planned under the project, would have increased soil fertility and led to a greater yield for the farmers, an agricultural expert asserted.

He urged the government to revive the ignored project to initiate an economic renaissance in the area.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 22nd, 2020.

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