AGRICULTURE AND TECHNOLOGY: Paddy growers’ worries

Post Source: Dawn Economic and Business Review

By Mohammad Hussain Khan

 

 

PREPARATIONS for rice cultivation in Sindh are underway amidst fears that flood-ravaged canal network — recently repaired by the irrigation authorities — will not be able to carry water to their farms.

Growers on the right bank of Indus River were dealt a severe blow by the floods last year which washed away their Kharif paddy crop. Thy were not able to have a normal Rabi crop as well.

Now, they fear drought-like conditions in their areas that may hit paddy crop this Kharif. Farmers are ready to grow paddy despite imposition of 16 per cent GST on all agriculture inputs including seeds, urea, fertiliser, and pesticides, making it a costly ride.

It was August 7 Tori dyke breach that had ravaged the irrigation network of the province; more breaches followed in upper Sindh on Indus right bank which is known for paddy cultivation. Similarly, August 26 breach on left bank of Indus in Thatta – a paddy growing area destroyed a large swath of the district.

Breaches were plugged in and canals network was repaired by the irrigation authorities. But growers are concerned about the quality of dykes’ repair work and the recently repaired flood-ravaged canal system. Besides, they also hint at non-availability of quality paddy seeds for cultivation.

Sindh Abadgar Board’s Vice-President Gada Hussain Mahesar, who is also a paddy producer, says that seed availability seems to be a serious issue because the government had initially announced provision of free paddy seeds, but later on said the seeds would be provided at subsidised rates. According to him, the government has been trying to procure paddy seeds.

Around 69,000 tons of seeds are required for paddy cultivation in the province.

“I am really sceptical about quality of canals’ work and I am not sure whether these water channels will be carrying water safely to our lands”, Mahesar says. Water is available in River Indus and there is no shortage at all but if branches and minors don’t carry water or develop breaches, the growers will suffer. He specifically mentions Begari canal where repair work remained questionable.

This year irrigation authorities couldn’t de-silt the canals due to belated de-silting drive as budgetary allocations meant for it were diverted for plugging in breaches. “Silt deposits have affected capacity of canals and branches to carry water. The repaired canals will not withstand pressure of water if full supply level is delivered by the irrigation authorities. The tail-end areas’ abadgars would be badly hit when water does not reach their lands,” he fears.

Ishaq Mughairi, SAB Shahdadkot district official, points out that growers have serious reservations over canals’ repair works and refers to RD-175 of Saifullah Magsi branch, RD-62, RD-96, RD-97 of Keer Thar canal, which are fed by Sukkur barrage and where breaches occurred.“ These are not repaired properly and we have pointed it out to the Presidential Ministerial Oversee Committee headed by Mir Nadir Magsi,” he says.

He says the growers’ fear may prove to be genuine as these branches will not be able to carry enough water. We will be facing drought if we don’t get water for Kharif crop.”

Sindh Agriculture Board Secretary Agha Jan Akhtar claims that paddy seed can be obtained through DCOs for Rs600 per maund, by submitting applications which will be subject to verification. “One and half maund bag will cost a grower Rs900. It is not certified seed but of quality one surely”, he says.

He confirms to have received complaints that seeds are not being provided to the growers and has issued directives to the DCOs to ensure supply of seeds by end of this month. “The government had foreseen shortage of seed due to damages to paddy crop by floods 2010”, he says.

Secretary Irrigation Khalid Hyder Memon admits that right now water availability for right bank paddy growing areas is to be ensured. He also concedes that water is being supplied gradually to avoid any losses in canals which are recently repaired but expresses hope that canals will operate to their full capacity.

Reports about questionable quality of works of damaged canal systems are also coming in also from another flood hit district of Thatta. Recently Kheeral minor that emanates from Darro branch of Pinyari canal had developed a big breach because its regulator gate was not installed. Proper soaking and sand coring has not been done, according to growers of the area.

Following last year’s floods, the irrigation department had reported around 2515 breaches which were repaired by it. Entire branches and distributaries were washed away by floods. The irrigation authorities, reports say, are releasing water gradually in such canals to ensure their safety. Their main thrust is on river dykes’ repairs because they have to withstand floods first.

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