Archive for September, 2011

About 2.7 million cotton bales worth Rs.3.5 billion damaged

Post Source: DAWN


 Cotton Development Commissioner, Khalid Abdullah said that cotton crop was grown in 23 districts across Sindh.– APP (File Photo)



ISLAMABAD: About 2.7 million cotton bales worth Rs.3.5 billion were destroyed during recent flash floods in Sindh province as about 23 cotton growing districts of the province were badly affected due to torrential rains.


Cotton Development Commissioner, Khalid Abdullah told APP here on Wednesday that cotton crop was grown in 23 districts across the province.


Out of these cotton growing districts in the province, seven districts produced 80 per cent of the total crop production and about 74 per cent of the total output was damaged due to recent flash floods in the province, he added.


“Recent damage was bigger than last year’s floods when about 2.4 million cotton bales were destroyed across the cotton growing areas in the country. This time 2.7 million bales were damaged alone in Sindh province,” he added.


Abdullah further said that cotton crop was also affected inPunjabwhere about standing crop over 50,000 acres was damaged due to recent heavy rains.


But, he said thatPunjabhas surpassed its sowing targets by 100,000 acres during the current cotton crop sowing season which would help to minimize the total out-put loss in the province.


Besides cotton crop other cash crops including sugarcane, onion and green chillies were also badly affected due to floods in these areas, he added.


It may be recalled that the country has set the targets to produce about 15 million cotton bales during the year 2011-12.



Punjab escapes major crop losses

Post Source: Dawn Economic and Business Review


By Ahmad Fraz Khan




PUNJAB has so far escaped any major loss to its main crops — cotton, rice and sugarcane — from the impact of heavy monsoon. The rains have caused a few breaches, but they have not resulted in any major flood so far.

Escaping big production loss, however, does not, in any way, mean that there were no individual losses either. There are few farms, especially on the banks of link canals where water level is high, that has seen up to 60 per cent crop damage.

Some growers in the waterlogged areas — a very few left in the province though — have also suffered because of standing water in their fields and have very few options to drain it out but to wait for its evaporation.

The other source of minor trouble was the otherwise dormantSutlejRiver, given toIndiaas part of the Indus Basin Water Treaty bargain, which broke its banks and inundated small areas in central Punjab, from where it entersPakistanto move towards southern part of the province.

Yet another source of individual losses is crops in river beds. Unfortunately, they are not reported in official records either — meaning that any compensation package, even if it comes, would exclude them. They form huge areas as shown by theSutlejRiver, which covers from Kasur to Rahimyar Khan District. All along these six districts, people sow crops in river beds. The government needs to consider these losses as well because they form part of the provincial production.

All these individual losses are being calculated by the provincial agriculture and revenue departments. But as far as provincial production targets are concerned, they still look achievable if rains’ cost benefit ratio is taken into consideration.

For example, as per official statistics, so far 150,000 acres of cotton — out of total 6.2 million acres — have been hit up to 25 per cent. Though these statistics are not final, if they could be taken as a temporary benchmark, the final loss may be around 75,000 bales. Considering the 10 million bales target that the province is expecting for this year, the loss may not even be one per cent. But the government must find ways to compensate the individual farmers who have suffered 25 per cent loss of production, as this loss is substantial, perhaps decisive for some, in individual cases.

If rains stop early, as the metrological department forecasts, the province may, in fact, be able to cross its crop targets, especially for cotton, especially if farmers improve their management practices and handle micro changes in climate that rains have brought.

They need to look into three areas. First, the rains would change the pest pattern; they would expand in variety and population. They need to be checked before they reach threatening level. Second, the rains would keep the plant in water. The farmers need to clear their crops like cotton and shift water to water-loving crops like rice and cane. If they are practicing mono crop, they can dig trenches to shift water to them and save their crop.

Third, the farmers must not water their crops only because water is available in canals. They must, as they did last year, follow metrological advisory for irrigating their land and, in every possible way, try to avoid over-irrigation now.

The agriculture experts fromPunjabthink that if farmers can manage these climatic effects, the province could improve its production figures.

The rains have removed two major problems, which were threatening the Kharif crops. It has ended almost drought conditions, which when all rivers saw their flows dipping abysmally low.

Second, it has contained the effects of urea shortage by providing vegetative growth to crops. The urea shortage, which is still some 350,000 tons short in the province, could have hit the crops very badly but for the timely rains.

Luckily, apart from cotton, both other Kharif crops (sugarcane and rice) love water and can withstand its effects easily. Most of the farmers along link canals and waterlogged areas sow these two crops given their soil character. Most of rice there is
Irri-6 or some others varieties that may not hit exports much even if production goes down a bit. It is not a likely scenario though. The 15 districts of basmati belt have by and large been safe so far.

As far as other minor crops like moong or fodder are concerned, it may take a few more weeks for the Punjabgovernment to assess damages to them with a measure of certainty. But, apart from three major crops, all other crops put together may not
have much bearing on provincial agriculture picture.

Thus it is only the cotton crop that can alter the provincial, and by extension, the national agriculture picture and that is where provincial authorities and the farmers need to concentrate for the next few weeks.

Worrying food imports

Post Source: Dawn Economic and Business Review

By Ahmad Fraz Khan


The country’s entire food planning is revolving around the above-mentioned crops with wheat overshadowing all others by hogging additional acreage and eating into areas of almost all other crops. - File photo






PAKISTAN’S food import bill keeps rising and is a matter of serious concern. According to the provisional data of the State Bank of Pakistan for July, the food import bill rose by 28 per cent to $445 million from $345 million in July 2010.

While none of the items included in the import list is something that cannot be produced in the country, (given its ecological endowments), commodities like sugar and pulses cannot, under any circumstances, be justified. To make the matter look even worse, milk and milk-products are also imported on a large scale despite the nation being the sixth largest producer in the world. The list of imports only reflects policy failure.

The economy can hardly afford this kind of imports. The government needs to contain import bill and increase exports. For this, it has to keep pace with world realities, which has moved to hybrid and super-hybrid regimes breaking new grounds in production levels and crop diversification to ensure domestic food security and earn foreign exchange.

Unfortunately,Pakistanis still stuck up with basic cereals (wheat, rice and maize) and legumes (lintel, gram, mash etc), and that too with decades old seeds and agricultural practices. The world, however, is leapfrogging technologies, and, resultantly, agricultural practices. The ground realities in the food market are also changing fast. The country’s entire food planning is revolving around the above-mentioned crops with wheat overshadowing all others by hogging additional acreage and eating into areas of almost all other crops.

The country has not been able to exploit its wheat potential and diversifying its usage despite domestic and international pressures. The world andPakistan’s major urban markets are undergoing a change. In the country, many people, who, till recently, used to consume maize, sorghum and millet along with wheat for bread (roti), are now narrowing their taste down to wheat alone. On the other hand, the affluent younger generation has moved to pizza, pasta, spaghettis and macaronis.

However, the country’s flour milling industry is still sticking with four traditional lines — flour, fine-flour, white flour and semolina — that are meant for preparing three or four kinds of bread and a few bakery items. A wide range of the middle and rich income groups’ preferential food items are being imported along with their ingredients. The developed world is getting at least 35 lines of wheat with different blending to meet its domestic and export requirements for what is known as junk food.

Pakistani wheat is second to none, and one can produce almost all kinds of products with right technology and awareness.

WhyPakistanis not moving into that direction?

It would take an enabling environment and right kind of policy framework to maximise wheat gains. To begin with, the country essentially needs trading surplus of wheat to cater to all kinds of flour markets abroad.

For that, it must try to break new grounds in the wheat seed sector. Better seeds are needed to increase per acre yield and bring down production cost.

As always, cost of production determines commercial viability of export. It is only then that the government can attract the industry in investing in new technology that can produce new lines of flour to meet new domestic and international markets’ demand.

For doing that, it has to go for high-yielding hybrids. All the seeds being used are either loosing their vitality or have become susceptible to diseases and pests. Unless a new variety, and such varieties are available in the world, is introduced, the country cannot fully exploit wheat marketing and production potential.

This year, with right kind of incentives and policies,Pakistanhad exported fine-flour to countries likeAustralia. There are few exporters, who are also exporting macaronis to world market. Their experience can form basis of national policy and experiment.

Controlling reverse saline water flows

Post Source: Dawn Economic and Business Review



By Mohammad Hussain Khan


DURING his recent visit to the rain-hit districts, Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani assured the Sindh government of the centre’s help in controlling the Left Bank Outfall Drain reverse saline water flows.

The PM was briefed on the impact of monsoon on the LBOD that often leads to serious damage to human settlement and crops in the coastal district of Badin and Mirpurkhas. Locals and officials say the drain gets backward flow of water due to the LBOD’s design defect.

A new strategy will be evolved by the provincial irrigation department in consultation with the local community and elected representatives to tackle the LBOD problem. According to Sindh Irrigation Secretary Khalid Hyder Memon, the strategy document would be submitted to the federal government soon so that work is started before next monsoon season. “We plan to identify the old and natural routes of water that flows into the sea,” he says.

On the other hand, a visit by Wadpa officials’ team to different locations of the LBOD revealed that it needed proper maintenance from Naukot (Mirpurkhas district) downstream. “It is a case of deferred maintenance. When we visited the drain it was flowing with 6,000-7000 cusecs discharge against its designed discharge of 4,600 cusecs. It is not being managed properly,” a Wapda official said.

Wapda built the LBOD to save the lands of left bank districts of Badin, Nawabshah, Mirpurkhas, Sanghar and Thatta from water-logging and salinity by disposing of brackish water to the sea. After its completion in late 90s, it was handed over to the Sindh government in 2000. Since then the provincial irrigation department is responsible for its maintenance and has been pointing to its defective design. The blame game goes on without any remedy.

In this blame game, people sufferer. The disaster has dealt a severe blow to the rural economy. Secretary irrigation insists that it is not the maintenance but the design of the drain that is the problem. “When the design is
faulty, maintenance will not serve any purpose,” he says.

According to member water Wapda Raghib Shah, a study was conducted by Wapda on the request of Sindh government after the devastating rains in Badin in 2003. The study was given to the Sindh government in February 2010. “Now it is pending with the Sindh government,” he says and points out that a joint study was also done by PM’s team and the Sindh government a couple of years back. “Findings of the joint study indicated that an expenditure of Rs9 billion was needed to rehabilitate the drain (LBOD) system. This again is pending with Sindh,” he says. One of the proposals submitted to Wapda was that embankments of the drain could be raised to increase its capacity and carry around 9,000 cusec of water besides additional amount of rainfall.

The position of Sida which controls the LBOD and other drains is that Wapda just forwarded report of its consultants Nespak (National Engineering Services of Pakistan) to it without actually authenticating it. “There were around eight solutions to the problem submitted by Wapda to it mentioning that everyone was workable without specifying the option to be preferred,” Managing Director of Sida Ehsan Leghari says.

Sida is carrying out a study on drainage system’s master plan separately through foreign consultants. It will be completed by early 2013. Consultations with stakeholders are under way as part of this four phase study that would focus on the LBOD too.

The LBOD system has a capacity of 4,600 cusec of water with a provision of certain amount of rainfall runoff. According to a Wapda official it can cater to 75mm of rainfall. However, changing weather patterns have upset such engineering estimates.

Weather experts are warning of climate change for quite some time, advising everyone to adopt to changing conditions to avoid disasters.

The LBOD, also known as spinal drain, gets bifurcated into Kadhan Pateji Outfall Drain (KPOD) and Dhoro Puran Outfall Drain (DPOD). The DPOD disposes 2000 cusec of water intoShakoorLake, 80 per cent of which is located inIndian territoryand 20 per cent in Pakistani territory. Remaining 2,600 cusec goes to sea [Shah Samando creek] through KPOD tidal link.

The Sindh Irrigation Secretary points out that Wapda can build dams but canal infrastructure or drains are different ballgame.

He disagrees with Wapda member water that the LBOD can take 75mm rainfall runoff. “The LBOD can hardly take 50mm of rainfall. Wapda didn’t keep in mind that they are building drain in coastal region where rainfall can be as high as 400mm to 500mm at times,” he says.

According to a Badin farmer, Haji Nawaz Memon, the LBOD needs some modification in its designs to respond to high tides that are seen every month when the sea doesn’t accept drain water. “The depth of drain at tidal link location needs to be modified. Besides its northern embankments that face settled areas, are to be refurbished,” he proposes. He admits that drain is necessary for flushing out rainwater as Badin is a low lying area.

Current monsoon rains have once again spelt disaster in Badin, Tando Mohammad Khan and Mirpurkhas districts, causing serious damage to cotton, paddy, sugarcane, vegetables crops and fodders besides affecting two million people. Thousands have landed in so-called relief camps to wait for food and health facilities. Livestock is another sector that gets a harsh treatment by Nature.

Badin is the home constituency of Speaker National Assembly Dr Fahmida Mirza. She says that Sindh government would take elected representatives and local community on board when it prepares a LBOD brief for presentation to PM. “It requires federal government’s intervention because without its assistance Sindh will not be able to handle the LBOD problem. It needs billions of rupees and the allocations in the provincial budget are just peanuts,” she tells this correspondent.

She, however, made it clear that people and elected representatives of Badin would not agree to any study conducted by any agency that did not consult the local community and its representatives for resolving the LBDO issue once and for all.


Post Source: Dawn Economic and Business Review




By Mohammad Hussain Khan

ONCE again the disaster management in Sindh has failed to prevent the devastation of farmland and crops in the lower region of the province, triggered by the recent monsoon rains. The failure of the provincial Disaster Management Authority’s (PDMA) contingency plan indicates that either it is still in the formative phase or apparently no lesson has been learnt from the last summer floods when seven districts on the right bank of River Indus in upper Sindh were badly affected. The conventional approach of relief officials and concerned departments during the relief operation in Tando Mohammad Khan, Badin, Mirpurkhas and Thatta played havoc with crops and people in the area. During the recent monsoon, villages were inundated and katcha houses washed away. The marooned people came out of their submerged villages to take refuge on roadsides. Many landed in the so-called relief camps that offered almost nothing. After a couple of days boats were made available in some areas by law enforcing agencies to rescue the stranded people.

The rains in mid-August have submerged standing cotton, paddy and vegetable crops causing colossal losses to farmers.

During last year’s floods, people did get some time to move to safer areas as floodwaters headed gradually towards their lands and houses. The villagers suffered most in those areas where breaches occurred and the gushing water washed away
everything. But the recent rains in the lower Sindh region, which continued for three days unabated, inundated settlements overnight. Three to four feet of accumulated water made mobility of rural people and livestock difficult.

“We are under full control of the situation and are not seeking assistance from the UN, its partner organisation, for succour,” says PDMA Director-General Pir Bux Jamali, but concedes, “the PDMA will have to review its contingency plan as the disaster caused by breaches in the LBOD in Badin and Mirpurkhas is a new phenomenon.” “We work as an advisory body and coordinate between different departments. If we intervene directly there will be overlapping of work. The DCOs are there who respond to disaster first,” he remarks.

“We have submitted a requisition for funds for capital assets to Sindh government to deal with structural and non-structural requirements. We are open to suggestions in our scheme of things after we get a nod from the Sindh chief minister,” says Jamali.

The district administrations have their own axe to grind when it comes to disaster mitigation. According to the DCO of a rain-hit district even tents have not yet been provided by the PDMA that were promised by the prime minister. How are we supposed to manage things when we are ourselves bogged down? The villages are located wide apart. You need to understand the topography and geography of the area as well. There are no water supply schemes. Health facilities are generally not available even in normal times so these disasters make our people more vulnerable. Relief camps are generally not in good shape which multiplies the miseries of the survivors,” he adds.

According to Jamali, DDMA will have to be formed at the UC and taluka levels where information is to be shared first before responding to problem effectively with the availability of resources. “There are no issues of coordination at all, we are working in collaboration with the Rangers, police and other agencies,” he says.

National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) chairman Zafar Qadir stresses the need to strengthen the PDMA and DDMAs in Sindh. “There are structural issues faced by the PDMA and DDMAs in the province. Sindh makes an annual allocation of Rs140 million for emergency situations, less than allocations made by Balochistan (Rs3 billion) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (Rs1 billion) for this purpose,” says Qadir. He says that he requested the Sindh finance minister to raise the allocations but to no avail. Then there is issue of dual intervention by two departments – PDMA and Relief Commissioner – in Sindh which also affects the working because the nature of work is same but approaches are different, Qadir added. “Resources are to be made available to the PDMA which needs volunteers to work in disaster area after professional training,” he says.

The people in relief camps, on the other hand, confront serious health and civic issues. Supply of cooked food remains irregular. Women especially those expecting and the newborns face great risk of infection in absence of health cover.
The rural population, even otherwise, doesn’t have access to quality health facility. Disaster on a such scale makes them more vulnerable as mobile medical teams only offer symptomatic treatment.

Every district has its own disaster and vulnerability profile and dimension like flash floods, riverine floods, breaches, rains and cyclone. Absence of proper drainage system, brackish subsoil water, equipments for dewatering, prolonged power outage are some irritants that affect relief/rescue work. Resource availability is something very important to mobilise machinery and staff to shift the marooned population. The government has also not been able to rehabilitate the destroyed infrastructure and displaced people in last year’s flash floods.

The global warming and abnormal weather conditions, forecast by environment experts, indicate continuation of such cycle of heavy rains for next couple of years. With the threats of flood in future, the PDMA and DDMA need to be strengthened.

Conventional bureaucratic thinking needs to change.