Precursor to food crisis?: Power cuts bode bad news for crops, farmers

Locals estimate agriculture produce of Malakand Division to decrease by as much as 50% due to water shortage.


Fazal Khaliq August 17, 2012

SWAT:


The ongoing dry spell coupled with loadshedding has not only made life miserable but also added to the problems of farmers in Malakand Division. Due to low voltage and extended power outages, tube wells in the area have stopped functioning, which is taking its toll on crops.


As all agriculture lands in Malakand Division depend upon tube wells for water, locals have estimated that agriculture produce can decrease by as much as 50 per cent due to shortage of water.

“Nearly all tube wells are out-of-order and our tomato and wheat crops are being destroyed. This can lead to a food crisis,” warned Altaf Hussain, a farmer from Taza Gram locality of Lower Dir. Hussain said that a majority of the 45 tube wells installed by the irrigation department have stopped functioning. In some areas, one or two tube wells that work are unable to meet the needs of the local farmers, he added.

In Swat valley wheat crop has been wasted due to unavailability of water, Muhammad Gul, a local farmer of Manglawar told The Express Tribune. “We mainly earn by selling wheat and vegetables that we grow on our lands. But this season, our crops have been destroyed due to insufficient water,” said Gul. He said the government should have made a policy to reduce the duration of loadshedding to avert damage to the agriculture sector.

Farmers in Buner district, where tobacco is grown on a large scale, are facing the same problem. Zahid Waseem, a local farmer said that more than nine tube wells of the irrigation department have shut down this season due to power outages and low voltage problems. “Some local farmers have installed up to 30 tube wells on self-help basis but even those are inoperable due to loadshedding and low voltage,” he said. He urged the government to take tangible measures for streamlining issues of the agriculture sector.

On the other hand, the irrigation department has expressed helplessness over the issue. “The problem is out of our control as it arises due to loadshedding and the farmers know that well,” an official at the irrigation department said, requesting anonymity.

Agriculture experts are of the opinion that solar energy tube wells are a better alternative in the agriculture sector and have urged the government to take necessary measures to prevent damage to crops.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 17th, 2012.

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