Jul 20, 2010

Sindh: Water Shortage causes Shift in Rice and Sugarcane Cultivation

Sample ImageA drop in water supplies in the Sindh province means that cultivation of rice and sugarcane has moved to the northern parts of the province. The shortage is due to unequal water distribution in Pakistan and dam-building on the Indus River.

Below is an article published by The News.com:


The rice and sugarcane cultivation in lower-Sindh has started shifting to the northern parts of the province over the last one decade due to an almost 15 drop in the water supplies, experts said on Wednesday [July 14].


During the last 11 years, water shortage has increased by nearly 15 percent with the supply dropping to around 90 maf (million acre feet) a year against 105 maf till 1999, said Idrees Rajput, water expert and former secretary Sindh Irrigation and Power Department.


Syed Mehmood Nawaz Shah, Secretary General Sindh Abadgar Board, told The News that the water-shortage became severe in the last decade, forcing farmers in lower Sindh to abandon the cultivation of sugarcane and paddy, the two major crops of the area.


“Lower Sindh’s weather is humid and suitable for both sugarcane and rice, but their cultivation is being shifted to upper areas, as water availability has become an issue.”


Paddy farming in lower-Sindh has dropped by up to 9 percent in a year, while sugarcane by 15 percent, official data said.


Statistics of Sindh Agriculture Department shows that area of IRRI-6 cultivation in Tando Muhammad Khan dropped to 12,487 hectares in 2009 against 13,286 in 2008, in Thatta it shrank to 62,343 hectares from 68,326 hectares, and Badin to 56,557 hectares from 56,555 hectares.


The northern parts of Sindh including Ghotki, Khairpur, Sukkur, Nausheroferoze and Nawabshah recorded significant increase in paddy plantation despite a ban on the cultivation of these crops. These areas being at the upper end of canal system get irrigation water.


Lower-Sindh recorded a 15 per cent decline in area under sugarcane cultivation in 2009 against 2008.


In Tando Allahyar, sugarcane plantation dropped to 17,835 hectares in 2009 against 20,657 in 2008. In Tando Muhammad Khan it fell to 25,336 from 28,790 hectares. In Badin cane cultivation shrank to 46,117 from 53,640 hectares and in Thatta it dropped to 31,229 hectares in 2009 from 33,179 hectares in 2008.


Shah said that water distribution by IRSA was not justified as Sindh received more shortage than the Punjab. Sindh was given a shortage of 41 percent from April 1 to June 30, when it was a crucial kharif or autumn crops sowing period in the province.


Kharif starts around 4 weeks earlier in Sindh than in Punjab, however, cotton from Sadiqabad and other areas of the Punjab reached the market before Sindh’s crop, he said, which shows more shortages of water were put on shoulders of Sindh.


He said that best time for the paddy sowing in Sindh was from May 20 to July but hardly 20 percent sowing has been recorded in the rice-belt comprising Shikarpur, Jacobabad, Shahdadkot, Matli, Badin and Khoski.


He said water-shortage in Sindh was around 50 to 60 percent of the demand, which reached to 70 percent at Kotri the tail end of irrigation system. “It happened at the time when water was stored in Mangla Dam and not released downstream.”


Shah said a high-level meeting was held in Sindh last November, where representatives from the Punjab agreed that Sindh would be provided water for early kharif in February and March. Contrary to that, the province did not receive its due share till July.


Idrees Rajput, water expert and former secretary irrigation Sindh, said that water situation in last 10 years worsened and canals were getting around 90 to 95 maf water against 105 maf from 1990 to 1999.


He said due to water shortages cultivation of sugarcane and paddy had declined. But, growers of Shikarpur, Larkana, Jacobabad and Kashmore had no option but paddy.


He said the Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa provinces were constructing small dams on tributaries of the Indus River, which would also reduce water availability in Sindh.


Rajput said owing to water shortage, the area under cultivation was declining naturally, but the statistics of Sindh government were not reliable, as some departments wanted to show their efficiency, others record lower area under cultivation to have a cut down in revenue and taxes.