Farmers yearn for irrigation scheme

Climate change affects gram yield in Thal

Malik Arshad May 29, 2024
Irrigation system. PHOTO: FILE


Facing the devastation of the gram crop because of climate change during the past decade, farmers in Thal have lamented the abandonment of the Greater Thal Canal project initiated 23 years ago to irrigate rain-fed land.

The project included the Mankira, Dhangana and Noorpur Thal branches to irrigate a vast rain-fed area of Khushab, Jhang, Muzaffargarh and Layyah districts with canal water.

According to a local farmer, the community had hoped that the project would provide an opportunity to the growers to sow profitable crops, which was not possible on rain-fed land.

He said hundreds of thousands of acres of land in Noorpur Thal Tehsil was barren, making it difficult for the farmers to produce enough to make both ends meet.

The only source of livelihood for a large number of farmers in Thal is the gram crop, which has been devastated by climate change during the past 10 years. According to an estimate, the gram cultivation in the area has declined by about 40 per cent and the farmers are incurring losses.

A farmer, Ameer Alam Khan, said the Tehsil could contribute billions of rupees annually to the national economy if an irrigation project like the Thal canal was implemented.

Another grower, Mahar Muhammad Zubair, said the local land was very suitable for cultivation, where all kinds of crops and fruit plants could be grown, but the biggest problem was lack of canal water.

He said many farmers of the area had become unemployed because of the declining gram production.

“Every year, due to unseasonal rains and climate change, the average yield of the gram crop is decreasing, and the farmers are not earning enough while accumulating bank loans to meet their expenses.

The farmers said the 60 per cent of the canal project completed when the work was halted had also been ruined. The distributaries have been filled with sand.

Only the Mankira branch supplies water, which does not benefit the farmers of Thal.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 29th, 2024.


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