The Punjab government has earmarked Rs243 million for rainwater conservation in the Potohar region. The project would enhance agricultural productivity by improving the capacity of existing water resources and exploring new ones.
An Agency for Barani Areas Development (Abad) official told The Express Tribune that the project aimed at improving water availability for farmers in four districts of the Potohar region — Rawalpindi, Chakwal, Jhelum and Attock.
He said the government was also working on a plan to encourage farmers to grow high-value crops for increased yields and profits.
The official said that the Punjab government’s planning and development department has allocated Rs243 million for the project in the current budget and set a two-year completion deadline.
“Initially, 200 existing mini dams and reservoirs would be selected for harvesting rainwater after analysing their capacity,” he said.
“After the survey, a comprehensive plan would be formulated to enhance the capacity of the existing water sources,” he said, adding that the government would encourage farmers to grow orchards on three acres and vegetables on two acres near the dam areas.
The official said that the farmers will also be provided with technical assistance and a 50 per cent agriculture subsidy.
Focus will be paid on three major areas — command area, catchment area and using high-efficiency irrigation techniques, he said.
“On catchment areas, 10 per cent of land will be specified for forests and 60 per cent for soil conservation techniques,” said the official, adding that the government also plans to install solar-powered water pumps to address the energy crisis.
“We are working on integrated development plans (IDPs) by resorting to high-efficiency irrigation techniques such as drip and sprinkler irrigation to overcome water scarcity in arid areas.” He said farmers in arid areas pay less attention to these techniques due to lack of finance and proper training, both of which the government will provide.
The official also said the project will be linked to the “Punjab Irrigated Agricultural Productivity Improvement (PIPPIP) farm management project”. Abad Director-Geneneral Tariq Javed Malik told The Express Tribune that they have completed work on 20 IDPs with the help of experts. He said that the experts have visited different sites to assess suitability for orchard or vegetable cultivation.
He said farmers have shown interest in the water conservation project and they have already received 200 applications.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 30th, 2014.
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