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Managing Punjab’s water resources

Punjab is to put all water-related organisations, including the Punjab Irrigation Department, under one umbrella — the Water Resources Department.

The Punjab Irrigation Department — set up as far back as 1849 — has been handling issues beyond its mandate and reach, such as integrated water resources management (IWRM) and water-related disaster risk management.

Several changes have occurred in irrigated areas during the last six decades. Water logging and salinity, land degradation, poor drainage, shallow groundwater (which meets 40pc of irrigation water demand) and increased disaster risks.

The Asian Development Bank and the Japan Fund for Poverty Reduction have approved a technical assistance for the institutional transformation of the Punjab Irrigation Department to the Water Resources Department.

ADB will implement technical assistance in close consultation with the irrigation department during the January 2017 — December 2019 period. According to Amjad Saeed, Head of the Project Management Office in the irrigation department, the process began this month as per schedule with the recruitment and mobilisation of consultants.

All water-related institutions and bodies, including the agriculture department, fisheries and even Wasa, will come under the umbrella of the new water resources department

The irrigation department official said all water related institutions and bodies, including the agriculture department, fisheries and even Wasa will come under the umbrella of the new water resources department.

Once water resource management is put in place, the Punjab assembly will approve an act to enforce levies, cost recovery, and licensing practices by 2019.

An ADB document says that piecemeal efforts of irrigation reforms by the bank and partners during the 1998-2013 periods were not successful. Therefore, a comprehensive policy and institutional review and a complete transformation of Punjab Irrigation Department into a responsive water resources department are required.

Punjab’s mid-term development framework (2015-18) prioritises reliable irrigation supplies, enhanced agricultural productivity, improved rural economy, and broad-based institutional reforms.

During the 36-month period, water resources development plans including the organisational structure of the new entity will be developed. The Punjab government will approve allocations for the Water Resources Department in its budget for 2019-20 to make the water body operational.

When asked as to why such a lengthy process will be required for the new department, Mr Amjad Saeed said that some legal procedures involved in the process for preparing legal framework for institutional transformation from PID to WRD.

The technical assistance involves developing a basin-based integrated water resources management approach; reviewing ongoing irrigation and drainage reforms; and establishing a hydraulic structures safety evaluation unit.

The World Bank initiated irrigation and drainage reforms through sector investment project and policy loans. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) also supported the implementation of irrigation reforms in some canal command areas.

ADB has been supporting the reforms through the ongoing multi-tranche financing facility for the Punjab Irrigated Agriculture Investment Programme. The new technical assistance will review all these reforms, and related plans and actions, and will integrate them as appropriate into the transformational process into a water resources department.

The ADB and Japanese assistance will help develop a framework and action plan for institutional transformation, and contribute to the sustainability of the investment programme. However, the assistance will not be able to support the complete modernisation of the WRD for which a separate loan will be required to support the medium- to long-term needs of the institutional transformation, ADB document explained.

Punjab’s irrigation system is controlled through fourteen barrages constructed on the river Indus and its tributaries Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi and Sutlej under various projects constructed in the eighteenth century.

According to ADB, best international practices of change management will be thoroughly analysed by the government, ADB, and the consultant team before recommending any new ideas for transformation.

The creation of water resources department is also aimed at preparing a water vision and 10 to 20 years investment programmes. The technical assistance will also help develop a water resources information system using satellite-based remote sensing technology and a geographic information system for cost-effective monitoring, evaluation and management of water resources.

Ahmed, Amin. Managing Punjab’s water resources. Dawn, January 30, 2017.

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