New dams for agriculture

Level basin flood irrigation on wheat

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Water onservation

Pakistan needs a revamped water policy before it’s too late

By Tahir Ali

The prevalent drought has more forcefully reminded the policy makers in Pakistan what has been earlier established by this July’s devastating floods: that the country should build more water reservoirs to accommodate the rain/floods water sooner rather than later.

It has also underscored the need for utilising the waste-water resources for irrigation purposes to guard against the danger of having rain-fed areas without crops in case of drought as is being witnessed.

The devastating flash floods have inflicted huge losses of about $10bn to the national economy. But if we learn from this calamity and become vigilant to volatile climate hazards by taking some measures, the calamity will be turned into an opportunity for development and prosperity.

The situation is even dismal for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where non-irrigated land accounts for over 50 percent of wheat acreage. The irrigated wheat area there is usually is around 0.8 million acres and the rain-fed area is over 1 MA.

With only a few days left in wheat sowing season, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is likely to miss its wheat sowing target of around 1.8mn acres this year.

Gul Nawaz Khatak, the chief planning officer of ministry of agriculture in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, said most of the wheat-specific southern districts like Laki Marwat, Tank, Bannu and Dera Ismail waited for rains, saying the rain-fed areas could have been cultivated had there been rain.

“Even if it rains till 20th of December, it will make sowing possible. Otherwise the area will be left without wheat this year. As of now only those areas in non-irrigated lands have gone under wheat cultivation that had some moisture in it. If there is no rain, wheat target will be affected by about 10 to 12 per cent,” he said.

This inability to sow wheat due to lack of water at the provincial and national level, means farmers’ poverty, debt cycle for them, food inflation and food security problems. But it will also have serious financial repercussions for the cash-strapped provincial and national kitties.

A loss of one million tons of wheat cost a whooping Rs24bn of exchequer. The province is expected to lose around 0.5 million tonnes and its woes would be further increased by this loss. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has already sustained a loss of around Rs200bn for floods and another Rs300bn for militancy shocks.

Secretary irrigation Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Muhammad Ashfaq Khan said the irrigation sector has suffered a loss of Rs11bn in floods. “As international donors and the federal government has not provided us the funds for reconstruction so far, we have decided to suspend our annual development programme and diverted funds to reconstruction efforts,” he says.

“Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, for lack of infrastructure, is unable to utilise 3.28MAF of its share of water as per the 1991 accord. This is why new dams and canals are required in the province,” he adds.

An official said due to droughts the provincial seeds industry could sell only three of the target of six thousand tonnes seeds to farmers. “The situation is indeed very dismal this year. You know wheat can be sown till January but delay from December onward brings per hectare yield down considerably. The per hectare yield in the province already lower than rest of the country, it is not a good omen for the food deficient province,” he said.

He says the government would give around 1600 metric tonnes of the left over seeds to farmers free of cost now. The cost will be borne by a Kuwait based NGO.


“By giving this residue of seeds to farmers, not only the farmers will get relief but if utilised, its expected production will be around 42000 metric tonnes. This will help reduce the gap between the wheat target and actual acreage,” the official says.

The land under wheat cultivation in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is 1/5th of the 2.75 million hectare total cultivable land in the province. This needs to be increased.

“The government must increase per acre yield, bring more land under cultivation and ensure mechanised farming and bigger land-holdings,” Shah says.

“This is why province badly needs the construction of promised but delayed/denied Chashma right bank canal’s lift scheme. This will irrigate 0.3MA of land. This will make the province food sufficient but it will also be in a position to export wheat,” Shah argues.

Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is dependent for 3/4th of its annual wheat requirements of 3.73 million tonnes on Pasco, Punjab’s government or imports.

Ghulam hussain, a farmer said first they faced shortage of seeds at the beginning of the sowing season and also DAP went out of the market. Later prices of fertilizers surged. How can we achieve the target when each and every input is scarce or costly,” he says.

“The climate change scenario was an established phenomenon for which the researchers and the government should try to introduce air/drought/ high temperature and excessive rainfall-resistant varieties that could resist the vagaries of the weather and yielded more grain,” Shah says. “The yield per hectare has reached to over 5000kg in China, but we still have about 2400kg per hectare in the country and still lower in the province,” he adds.


The provincial government has prepared detailed designs, feasibility study, pre-feasibility report of around 100 new small dams. The federal government should finance these and the Kurram Tangi dam, Munda dam and some other dams and rivers advocated by the provincial irrigation department. Reservoirs for rainwater should also be built. This is vital for Khyber pakhtunkhwa as 49% of cultivated area is rain-fed.

Psychological impact

Return of the natives

Psychological and physical impacts of the operation and displacement

By Tahir Ali

(The News on 27-09-09)

Despite experts and locals talking about the traumatic experiences the people of Malakand Division in general and Swat in particular have gone through, one finds very little government attention being paid to this aspect of the IDPs.

Reportedly, over 2.3 million people in the region had to bear hardships of different kinds when they were forced to flee. They had to live in miserable conditions in makeshift camps or congested buildings with their hosts. And, sadly, their misery didn’t end even as they returned to their homes. The women and children were coming back, having assimilated the horrors of displacement on the one hand and the devastating battle between the military and the militants on the other. For months, the young had been fed on images of blood and gore, throats being slit, bodies being hanged, and so on. They had witnessed the Green Square, in Mingora, now rechristened ‘Bloody Square’.

The educated and professional lot — lawyers, journalists, teachers, people related to industry, police officials, political party activists etc — also took a beating.

According to reports, around 200 girl schools in the region have already been destroyed by the militants which means thousands of female students will be without education now. A teacher at a high school that was blown up by Taliban, remembers the horrors of the night: “The Taliban attackers broke into our school, shouting slogans of ‘Allah O’ Akbar’. They blindfolded us, tied our hands behind us and picked up all sorts of expensive goods while detonating a bomb in the building.

“Luckily, they spared us on the condition that we’d never come back to the place.”

The teacher laments the fact that the careers of thousands of youngsters had been destroyed.

Doctor Mohammad Farooq Khan, a well known psychiatrist from Swat, says the people in the affected areas have returned but not without some mental conditions — “chiefly depression and psychosis.”

He tells TNS, “The conditions are likely to aggravate because these people have been under continued stress and without proper medication.”

Dr Farooq also speaks of having met cases of acute anxiety disorders. “People have been passing out on the street. The women, especially, complain of getting panic attacks. Insomnia (sleeplessness), nightmares, hopelessness and a strong sense of helplessness are the order of the day.”

Dr Farooq says he identified 10 to 20 percent of people in relief camps as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). “The patients of PTSD are haunted by unpleasant and painful memories that badly influence their sleep, mood and behaviour.”

Common psychological aberrations such as anger, peevishness, fighting over petty issues, urge for vengeance and conspiracies and highly suspecting nature are some of the other ailments that have been increasingly found among these people.

Dr Farooq suggests comprehensive treatment and psychological counselling for the purpose of which “the number of psychologists should be increased five times in Swat. The schools should have in-house psychiatrists.”

Ex federal minister and ANP leader Afzal Khan Lala tells TNS that the people of the region have been transported back by half a century in the march for progress. “Our children have received big psychological shocks. Their future is at stake. We need preferential support from the government and the world outside. We are entitled to special quota in jobs and development funds on long-term basis. Unless the area and its people get the required funding and support, they can’t compete with the rest of the country.”

It may be mentioned here that Lala himself sustained injuries in an incident when the insurgents pursued and killed the brothers of Ayub Ashari and Wajid Ali Khan, provincial ministers of ANP.

NWFP Minister for Forest and Environment, Wajid Ali Khan says ANP was on the hit-list of the insurgents. “Over 150 (ANP) activists and office-bearers were murdered in Swat. These are indeed testing times for us and the people of Swat.”

Wajid says a comprehensive plan worth $2 billions has been prepared for the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the area. “Education will be given priority, vocational institutions will be opened, jobs will be provided; losses to businesses, agriculture and properties will be compensated. The world should support us in our reconstruction efforts.”

Mumtazuddin, former administrator of an IDP camp in Mardan, says, “In our camp, there were cases of acute anxiety, depression, loss of sleep and other psychoses. Though they were treated, the nature of these ailments is such that they could recur any time in the future. Therefore, these patients need to be on medication for a longer time.

Sirajul Haq, former finance minister NWFP, says the province was pushed to war-like situation but was not sufficiently funded for the losses. “NWFP has incurred an estimated loss of Rs 25 trillions while agriculture in Malakand lost Rs 72 billions. The situation warrants that the province should be declared a war-affected zone.”

“Unfortunately, the trauma continues as no compensation has been provided to the people as yet. Despite emergency relief, work on recovery and rehabilitation has been slow,” says Aftab Alam, advocate and President, District Bar Association Swat.

He adds that the resilient legal fraternity — both judges and lawyers — decided to revamp the legal system in Malakand in the wake of the hazards for the future of the country. “But our problems have not been addressed. There are cracks in our office buildings. The judges face housing problems. We asked the government for help and, in February this year, a sum of Rs 3.5million was sanctioned for repair work in district courts. That, however, is yet to be released.”

The journalist community has also suffered. A Swat-based journalist tells TNS that the breaking news phenomenon had aggravated their woes. Several journalists have been killed while covering rallies and programmes in the region. “The media organisations want the latest news at any cost. The security forces have their own demands while the militants are also unhappy with us. We are virtually caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.”

A government official says that around 83 percent of the total 1,800 Swat police officials quit when Taliban unleashed a reign of terror against them. “The situation now looks encouraging as the old guard has rejoined while new inductions are being made.”

People related to the entertainment industry had to wind up their projects after 2007. CD shops and music centres were shut down and female dancers in Mingora were forced to leave the place.

According to the journalist, 25 percent of the entertainment industry people have returned to Swat. “Most of the poor people have returned. But unless the MPAs, MNAs and the influential people from the area return to the area, the public morale is likely to remain low.”

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