Threat to irrigation system
By: Engr. Muhammad Umer Karim
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
Third and last one is Kotri Barrage that was rehabilitated
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
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
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
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