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‘Punjab rainwater management to minimise climate change impacts’

Punjab Agriculture Department has launched ‘Rainwater Management in Cotton Fields’ project to minimise impacts of climate change in seven leading cotton growing districts of the province, including Bahawalpur, Bahawalnagar, Rahim Yar Khan, Vehari, Lodhran, Khanewal and Multan.

The key goal of the project is to safeguard the cotton crop from negative impacts of excessive rainfalls vis-à-vis climate change to optimise, its productivity. It is in line with the Punjab Growth Strategy (PGS) 2018 which envisages “improving land resources and environment by tackling water logging and improving soil quality, and mitigating the impact of climate change” for improving agricultural productivity as one of its objectives.

This is the first time that a project has been launched for cotton growers to save their crop from the negative impact of monsoon rains with a subsidy of Rs 60 million, said sources of the department here on Monday. Its key objectives are to protect the cotton crop from extreme rainfall events/impacts of climate change to minimise damages, and create an environment conducive to growing environment for cotton crop by removing excess rainwater from cotton fields, encourage farmers to grow cotton by incentivizing them for rainwater management and build cotton growers’ capability for better rainwater management to get optimum crop yields.

Major activities carried out under the project included construction of 105 rainwater harvesting ponds and over 70 sunken fields to collect excess rainwater from cotton fields during monsoon. In total, the department under the proposed project is supposed to construct 140 rainwater harvesting ponds and 140 sunken fields. While the government has started provision of 250 portable water pumping system to cotton growers for removing excess standing water from cotton fields and its collection in water storage pond for irrigation and other purposes subsequently.

According to the PC-I of the project, cotton, the most important cash crop, significantly contributes to the national economy. Amid other crops, cotton and its made-ups are main source of foreign exchange earnings with roughly 60 percent of total foreign exchange earnings from major exports. In addition to big contribution in value addition among major crops, a significant portion of labour force is engaged in cotton cultivation. Punjab is major cotton producing province with over 80 percent share in overall production.

During last few years, among other challenges to cotton crop, high intensity spatial and temporal rainfalls especially during monsoon have severely affected the cotton production in the province, being water sensitive crop. It is, therefore, required to adopt adaptation/mitigation measures for rainwater management in cotton fields during monsoon to remove excess water from cotton fields for getting optimum crop yields. It has been experienced that the climate change has altered the rainfall pattern besides affecting other climatic factors. The interventions introduced under the project include construction of water storage structures/ponds for removing excess water from cotton fields to save the crop and its storage for its subsequent use for irrigation.

Over 80 percent of total cotton is produced in Punjab with cultivated area of about 5.74 million acres (2.32 million hectares) during 2014-15.The production of cotton crop was 10.277 million bales during 2014-15 as reported by crop reporting service, agriculture department, government of the Punjab, Lahore.

Overall, the cotton sown area over the period of last 10 years has shown a declining trend with sowing of over 6.2 million acres during 2004-05 to significant reduction in 2014-15 – 5.7 million acres. Similarly, the cotton production trend is also declining with production of over 11 million bales in 2004-05 to substantial decrease in production during last few years. According to the estimate of crop reporting service, about 163 thousand acres of cotton cropped area was damaged by the heavy rains and floods during 2014-15, the PC-I added.

Source: Business Recorder

Byline: Zahid Baig

December 20, 2016

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