Water shortage to cause 40pc decline in wheat output

Post Source: The Nation

LAHORE – Agriculturists, water experts and growers have predicted that country could experience 30 to 40 per cent decline in wheat production this year as the farmers are facing worst water shortage after India cut down up to 50 per cent of water flow at Chenab River, putting the wheat crops in Punjab at stake.

On the other hand, weather pundits have also forecast scarcity of rains for this year.

President Pakistan Muttahida Kisan Mahaz (PMKM) Ayub Khan Mayo who recently visited Head-Marala to review water situation said that the wheat crops in Sindh and Punjab are in danger as the growers community is facing worst water shortage.

He also criticised the government’s silence over Chenab River water steal by India. “Under the Indus Water Basin Treaty, India is required to release 16,000 cusec Chenab water to Pakistan whereas water flow at Head Marala has been reduced to only 5000-Cusec as a result of construction of Baglihar Dam in Occupied Kashmir. Drastic fall in Chenab water flow had resulted in closure of Marala Ravi Link, Upper Chenab and BRB canals which met 75 percent canal water requirement of Punjab,” he maintained.
The closure of three canals has created an acute shortage of water for Rabi crop, and wheat production is likely to fall drastically in Punjab, Mayo added.

According to the Indus Water Treaty, India could not use Chenab water, as it could affect the quantity or flow of river. It goes without saying that by making the reservoir, the flow of water will definitely be affected.
“Pakistan is facing acute shortage of water due to India’s river water diversion plan, which has adversely impacted the farmers and made it difficult for them to keep their body and soul together,” Chairman Agri-Forum Pakistan Ibrahim Mughal said on Monday. He said that the wheat production could be less than the set target of 25 millions tons this year as the Indian water aggression is continued unabated.

He also said that the worst water scarcity would badly damage the wheat crops standing at no less than 2.5 million acre in the central Punjab. “This all is happening due to the construction of controversial Baglihar Dam and closure of Pakistan’s water by India,” Ibrahim Mughal said.

He further said that the water aggression would also damage grain crops in the Punjab province besides badly affecting the sowing of sugarcane crop.
Mughal also said that the government functionaries and advisors have the habit of issuing warnings that they would take up the matter with the World Bank or ICJ.

He also blamed the previous government for procrastination, the present ruling and opposition parties are involved in internecine conflict and India, meanwhile, may complete Kishanganga project.

In 2008, Pakistan suffered a loss exceeding Rs5 billion in paddy crop production only in the wake of water shortage after India stopped Chenab water to fill the Baglihar Dam in September.

Zadar Iqbal, a progressive farmer from Mailsi, said that in the past, there had been wars between the countries over religions, usurpation of territories and control of resources including oil, but in view of acute shortages of water in Africa, Middle East, Asia and many other places, the future wars would now be fought over water.

In addition to Kashmir dispute, the Indus River Basin has been an area of conflict between India and Pakistan for about four decades. Spanning 1,800 miles, the river and its tributaries together make up one of the largest irrigation canals in the world.

Dams and canals built in order to provide hydropower and irrigation have dried up stretches of the Indus River. The division of the river basin water has created friction among the countries of South Asia, and among their states and provinces.

Muhammad Ramzan Rafique, an agriculturist from Faisalabad University says, “Pakistan, indeed, needs large reservoirs to meet the growing food requirements of ever-increasing population, whereas for the last three decades none of the government has been able to evolve a national consensus on construction of Kalabagh Dam.”

Today, he said, agricultural sector contributes 24 per cent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP); two-third of population living in rural areas depends on it; absorbs more than 50 per cent of the labour force and provides the base for 75 per cent of exports in the form of raw materials and value-added products.

There is realisation in all the provinces that water shortages can lead to food shortages and also rifts between the provinces.

But the issue had been politicised for the last 30 years and genuine efforts were not made by the governments and leaders to resolve the contradictions by showing sense of accommodation and understanding of one another’s problems, he added.

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