Water shortage and Kharif crops

Powerful feudal lords and chieftains divert water to their fields when there is scarcity of water

September 09, 2021

There is reportedly a water shortage in the Indus River this year resulting in reduced flow of water in irrigation canals of Sindh. The provincial government blames the Indus River System Authority for the shortage. The latter denies the charge. Unfortunately, there are reports that even the allegedly diminished release of water to Sindh is not being distributed evenly among all farmers in the province. This newspaper has carried a report that in a large area of Qambar-Shahdadkot district, rice and other Kharif crops are wilting for want of proper watering.

To make matter worse, influential farmers, some of whom are members of the provincial assembly, are diverting a sufficient quantity of water, and in some cases, even more than their needs, to their fields depriving small landholders, especially those at the tail end of the canals, of an adequate amount of irrigation water. They are doing this with the help of expensive motors and electricity generators. Cultivators, low in terms of landholding, cannot afford these costly machines and equipment. Small farmers fear this selfish practice would reduce their yields and thus their earnings. Some of these cultivators are afraid that they might not even be able to recover their investment. Most tail-enders might suffer serious losses rendering them unable to pay off bank loans and clear other dues on account of purchasing fertiliser and seeds on credit. Prospects are bleak for them, to say the least.

Powerful feudal lords and chieftains divert water to their fields when there is scarcity of water, and in times of floods, the high and mighty reroute the excess water to the lands of small farmers. The most blatant instance of this was witnessed during the floods of 2010 and 2011 in the province. The provincial irrigation minister claims that IRSA is supplying only 50% of Sindh’s seasonal water needs, thereby violating the Water Apportionment Accord of 1991. He has nothing to say about the woes of the province’s farmers at the lower rungs of the ladder.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 9th, 2021.

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