Farmers decry water tax on barani land

Post Source: By Dawn Correspondent

August 28, 2010

MIANWALI, July 28: The irrigation department is recovering abiana (water tax) along with fine from farmers, but the latter are not ready to pay the tax because they say most of their lands remained without canal water throughout the year. Farmers say most of the land in Mianwali district is barani, and it has never been irrigated with canal water. Wan-Bhachran Janubi, Shadia Janubi, Chak 1-MB, 2-MB, 3-MB, Wan-Bhachran Shumali, Harnoli, Vichvin Bala, Dab, Norullah, Muzzaffarpur Shumali and Chak 22-DB to 32-DB are among the areas most affected by water shortage.

The farmers say they are ready to pay water tax on the land which they irrigated with canal water, but not on the barani land.

As per the existing flat rate, water tax is Rs85 per acre for Kharif season and Rs55 per acre for Rabi season. Flat rate is suitable for the plain areas, where canal water can reach everywhere, but not for Thal areas like Bhakkar, Mianwali, Layyah, Khushab and Muzaffargarh.

“Why should I pay water tax on my 50 acres of land, which has never been irrigated with canal water?” asks Abdul Hamid Khan. He said farmers having lands along Bhonki minor were being charged water tax despite the fact that the minor remained completely dry throughout the year.

Muhammad Hussain, another farmer from Wan-Bhachran Shumali, said he owned 200 acres but only 10 acres were being irrigated with canal water. He said his remaining land was barani. He said irrigation officials were telling him to pay water tax on his entire land.

Irrigation Deputy Collector Abdul Majeed Khan said his department released equal share of water in all minors and it’s up to the farmers to irrigate their lands. He said farmers could get their barani land exempted from water tax under section 20-B of the Canal Act.

He said tail-end farmers were given 20 per cent discount in water tax. He said farmers knew that if they would get their barani land exempted from water tax, the irrigation department would curtail the amount of water released in minors and as a result their water share would be curtailed.

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