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Threat to irrigation system
 By: Engr. Muhammad Umer Karim


Threat to irrigation system:-Pakissan.comNowadays, it is very difficult for small growers to access small quantities of good quality water at the right time, and that is the difference between having ‘a crop or no crop’.

While small farmers play a major role in farm economy, they are the ones who are affected most adversely by scarcity of natural resources.

And a major institutional issue is the almost exclusive control of the irrigation and drainage system by public sector entities, characterised by the usual inefficiencies of centralised technocracies, lack of corporate skills, poor client (farmer) focus and accountability.

The other set of problem is the deteriorating infrastructure, shrinking of capacity to divert water from river to farm gate (conveyance efficiency), deferred maintenance and lack of storage capacity.

Guddu Barrage is facing severe problems related to flood and sediment management, gates and gearing, safety of foundations and sub-surface flow conditions etc.

Around 78pc of the area in Sindh is underlain by saline ground water, which is not suitable for irrigation, drinking, cattle consumption or domestic use.

Canal water is the major source for drinking and irrigation in this region. Small farmers in these areas have small holdings, or are landless.

They have no money to invest in productivity enhancing technologies, virtually have no access to credit, and are more prone to investment risks and failing water delivery.

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Water availability in the Indus Basin Irrigation System (IBIS) is highly seasonal with 85pc of annual river flows occurring during a 90-120 days period (June to September), making storage imperative for the Rabi (winter –November-March) crop season, during which the main staple crop (wheat) is grown, and in early Kharif (summer April-October) during which cash crops (such as cotton, rice and sugarcane) are cultivated.

The entry point of IBIS in Sindh is Guddu Barrage which is situated on the Indus located in the district of Kashmore in the north of the province. It is the first of three barrages on the Indus within the province.

Commissioned in 1962-1963, its total command area is 2,597,730 acres. The estimated annual economic value of the crops supplied for irrigation by the feeder canals is Rs.14bn.

The barrage regulates irrigation supplies of Ghotki Feeder and Rainee flood canals on the left side and Beghari Sindh Feeder and Desert Pat Feeder canals on the right side.

Since 1970s, Pakistan has not been able to make investments to capture and expand additional surface water supplies for irrigation.

This also reflects the underlying ability of institutions that are not able to capture even a small part of huge economic returns from irrigation for investments in the upkeep of the existing system and for meeting future needs.

In 2007, Sindh Water Sector Improvement Project was started to better manage irrigation waters, and ‘Assets Management of Major Irrigation and Drainage Infrastructure’ was planned.

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The first WSIP activity was hiring of consultants for a feasibility study on rehabilitation and modernisation of Guddu Barrage. On March 17, 2011. the consultancy award was given to International Group of Irrigation Consultants.

During 2010 mega floods, Guddu Barrage was the first to face flood water.

It was critical time for this barrage already facing severe problems related to flood and sediment management, gates and gearing, safety of foundations and sub-surface flow conditions; operational constraint; and lack of monitoring systems and equipment etc.

The second in line was Sukkur Barrage.

Under WSIP, a feasibility study for its rehabilitation and modernisation was also awarded to a consortium of international and local irrigation consultants on September 20, 2011; it is at stage of hydraulic modelling/studies under supervision of a panel of experts.

Third and last one is Kotri Barrage that was rehabilitated recently.

During diagnostic study by consultants under WSIP it was observed that the 52-year old, Guddu barrage has developed major safety issues.

It is feared that its gates will fail during normal operations within five years. It reported ‘serious operational difficulties and safety issues’.

The report warns that up to 60pc of the steel of the 65 gates on the main barrage has been badly corroded; the lifting mechanisms have also been corroded with a strong possibility of failure; the switch panels and power distribution network are in extremely poor condition.

There is no back-up electricity supply system in case of power failure.

Climate change is expected to increase the occurrence of events such as floods, and the spatial availability of water.

The expected changes in river discharge rate will alter the physical forces exerted on the Guddu barrage and pose risks to its operation, safety and structural integrity.

In view of our irrigation experts, it is now the right time to replace Sukkur Barrage with a new one at upstream or downstream while the debate is still on.

The Sehwan Barrage Complex feasibility report was also updated in 2005.

The construction of a new barrage will practically take 15-20 years for new feasibility study, land acquisition, construction works and commissioning of new barrage.

It is agreed that process of concept clearance for replacement of Sukkur Barrage may be initiated. However, the rehabilitation and modernisation of Guddu Barrage project can be completed within 5-6 years.

Guddu Barrage is a vital hydraulic structure for the provincial economy as its culturable command extends to about 2.6m acres.

Any problem of its gates and river dykes can play havoc with agriculture and food security, infrastructure, poor famer’s property and livelihood.

October, 2014

Source: Dawn News

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