The report on Pakistan’s agriculture and rural economy published by the International Food Policy Research Institute, based in Washington, contains some highly useful recommendations for Pakistan. According to the report, Pakistan needs to focus more on agriculture research and development and it can redirect the funds currently used for providing wheat subsidies to that purpose. The report also highlights the present day requirement of building water storage facilities as Pakistan is a semi-arid region that relies heavily on irrigation for its water supply. This would include the building of water reservoirs and even canal rehabilitation and expansion. This is all the more important given the global climate change and Pakistan’s vulnerability to it. Increase in global temperature can cause floods in Pakistan, which, in addition to the loss of precious lives, also has the potential to significantly alter the current dynamics under which agriculture is practiced in Pakistan. Therefore, Pakistan will need to be prepared for any such eventuality and to that effect, region specific research has to be conducted. And it is only Pakistan that would have to carry out this research since it is its food security that is at stake.
The building of dams and water storage facilities is a far more concrete step that Pakistan needs to take immediately. However, it is one of those things that are deeply contentious in Pakistani politics. Case in point is the Kalabagh dam in which political opposition has been so strong from certain quarters that government each time has had to capitulate every time it wanted to move ahead with it. In light of such a politically charged environment, navigating forward must naturally be done carefully. And it must be kept in mind that there are genuine provincial concerns and grievances that must be adequately addressed. The history of unequal development in Pakistan is extremely relevant to all of this debate, and while steps now are being taken to address regional inequities, there is still a long way to go. However, amid all of this, sight must not be lost of the bigger picture in front of which provincial concerns pale and even seem myopic. Pakistan’s food security is at risk if Pakistan does not make enough dams and barrages to address the water challenges ahead. And that crisis will not discriminate between any region and ethnicity.
Hence, at the end of the day, all of this is a balancing act. Where the government needs to come forward and address provincial concerns, the provincial governments also need to realise that their interests ultimately lie in the construction of dams and barrages. Hence, instead of blocking government attempts to do so, they should also work towards devising a workable formula so that an inclusive model can be made in which development and provincial equity go hand in hand.
Reporter. Agriculture needs. Daily Times, January 31, 2017.