Indus Basin Irrigation System of Pakistan

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Pakistan, a country of enchanting landscapes offers a combination of beaches, mountains, beautiful deserts and valleys. Its vast farm lands are sustained by the Indus Basin Irrigation System (IBIS), the largest contiguous irrigation system in the world. The IBIS irrigates 45 million acres of farm land which produces wheat, rice, fruits, vegetables, sugarcane, maize and cotton in abundance for local use as well as for export.

This report provides the historical context in which the IBIS was developed. It discusses the economic impact of the IBIS on Pakistan, and provides recommendations for some current problems related to insufficient drainage and inefficient farming practices.

Historical Background

The Indus Valley has been the host to one of the most ancient civilization of human history, the Indus Valley Civilization. After the extinction of the Indus Civilization, new settlements especially in doabs grew slowly. New irrigation systems started to evolve. Inundation canals and small dams were constructed and population grew all around this area. In order to reduce the occurrence of low irrigation water supply the British authorities, towards the middle of the last century, started modernizing and expanding the irrigation system of the Indus Basin.

Treaty Between Pakistan and India

In 1947, the Indian sub continent was partitioned by the British into two independent states – Pakistan and India. After the partition a commission was set up to resolve any issue that may emerge as a consequence of the partition. The matter of utilization of water resources of Indus Basin was raised by Pakistan. The boundary commission, chaired by Sir Cyril Radcliff, awarded control barrages (situated very close to the border) to India, while 90 percent of irrigated land lay in Pakistan.

After a protracted negotiation of ten years through facilitation of the World Bank, the Indus Basin Treaty was signed by India and Pakistan in 1960 for distribution of water resources in the Indus Basin. According to the terms of the treaty India was given the exclusive use of the waters of the eastern rivers namely Ravi, Sutlej and Beas. Pakistan was not given its full historic share and was allocated only 75 percent of its legitimate share of the waters in Indus Basin. Consequently, Pakistan agreed to embark upon a gigantic project nicknamed as “Indus Basin Replacement Works”. The extensive undertaking involved the construction of two major dams, five barrages and eight link canals.

Pakistan’s IBIS

Pakistan’s economy is largely based on its agricultural produce. Water is therefore a critical resource for its sustained economic development. In order to fully utilize the river water resources, the IBIS has emerged as the largest contiguous irrigation system in the world. The IBIS comprises of three large dams, eighty five small dams, nineteen barrages, twelve inter-river link canals, forty-five canal commands and 0.7 million tube wells In monetary terms, this network is the biggest infrastructure enterprise of Pakistan accounting for approximately US$ 300 billion of investment.

Water Ability of the IBIS

There are three main sources of water availability in the Indus Basin:

A. The average annual flow of Western Rivers of Indus Basin is approximately 142 million acre feet (MAF). About 104 MAF of this water is diverted for irrigation purposes and about 35 million acre feet outflows to the Arabian Sea.

B. Rain Water:
Another source of water is the rain fall. Irrigated areas of Indus Basin receive on average 40 million acres feet of water annually.

C. Ground Water:
The third source of water is the ground water. It provides approximately 40 percent of crop water requirements of the country.

Challenges in Indus Basin Irrigation System

For any sustainable irrigation system that is dependent on river water supplies, it is necessary to have a system of affluent disposal. However, when the British engineers designed and constructed the barrages and canals in Punjab and Sindh, they did not install an affluent disposal system. This lack of an affluent disposal system gave rise to the twin problems of water logging and salinity. The problem is currently being addressed through construction of a network of disposal drains, many of which have been completed while more are under execution.

The Economic Impact of Indus Basin Irrigation System

The agricultural produce, in addition to providing food security constitutes:

A. 23 percent of GDP

B. 70 percent of total export earnings

C. 54 percent employment of labour force

The overwhelming majority of its produce comes from the areas irrigated in the Indus Basin. The IBIS is therefore essential in sustaining the agriculture and consequently economic well-being of Pakistan. The Indus Basin now serves as the bread basket of Pakistan. Its land use is furnished below.

Current Problems and Recommendations

Farmers in Pakistan receive their share of irrigation waters on a rotational basis. To protect the right of share of their water, the farmers are using more than the optimum quantity of water required for healthy crops. Lack of modern irrigation techniques and agricultural practices further add to the wastage of irrigation water. Some solutions outlined below can potentially serve to address this issue:

  1. Increase plantation of fruit trees.
  2. Expand forested areas.
  3. All existing dams small and large should be used for fish breeding and harvesting.
  4. Develop agricultural based industries and timber factories in the rural areas to provide employment to small farmers and increase the percentage of value added goods for export.
  5. Group small farms into larger units for cooperative farming using the latest irrigation and farming techniques and modern agricultural practices.
  6. Increase the production of beans, lentils and edible oil seeds to reduce their imports.
  7. Develop pastures for cattle farming and increase milk and meat production.
  8. Big land holdings more than five thousand acres of area should be made available for co operative farming.
  9. The level and standard of research should be enhanced in the existing agricultural universities of Pakistan.

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    55 Responses to “Indus Basin Irrigation System of Pakistan”

    1. arsalanpti@gmail.com
      Malik Arsalan Ayaz
      Available water and shortfall
      Pakistan is blessed by abundant water resources Indus and its distributaries bring an average of 154 MAF of water annually .105 MAF is utilized for irrigation through Indus basin and remaining is 50MAF is wasted into the Arabian Sea. The 105 MAF water which diverted into the irrigation out of which 40 % lost within the water courses themselves and 10% is wasted in the fields so the water available for the crops is only 55 MAF.It shows that one of the key factor responsible for the short fall is poor resource management. In 2015 it is estimated that the requirement will increase up to 215 MAF and about 277 MAF by the year 2025 .with the current available resources the shortfall will reach 60MAf feet by 2010 .The sum of storage capacity of Tarbela, Mangla and Chashma reservoirs is 17.1 MAF which has been already turn down by 4.26 MAF due to the sedimentation. It will further go down nearly 6 MAF by the end of year 2010 reaming 6.84 MAF. It means we need to build 10 dams like Kalabag to overcome the short fall.

      October 29, 2010 at 7:07 pm Reply
    2. it is very good the information written in simple language easily understand to the every age of student it help in self study

      October 5, 2010 at 11:01 pm Reply
    3. M. Akram Niazi. It is also sin and cruelty to call gigantic Thar Coal deposits in Sindh as “dirt” as you mentioned in your various postings available on NETS / Blogs.

      Like petrol which is called “Black Gold”, the coal is also “Black Gold”. Since it is in Sindh, you are calling it ‘dirt”. In fact, “dirt” is not in “Black Gold” (coal or Petrol), it is in your mind and heart.

      If you are so conscious about Environment, why you are not raising your voice to save Indus delta because it is in Pakistan & Sindh and not in Punjab?

      Indus delta is sixth largest in the world and due to its unnatural sad demise, formidable environmental repercussion had in the area besides mass migration of one million people, tremendous increase in poverty and unemployment, ruination of flora and fauna, sea intrusion resulting inundating 2.6 million acres of land in Sindh.

      This all due to might-Punjab who is not allowing to implement “Water Accord – 1991″ by not releasing at least 10MAF water after passing 19 years. Thus 2.7 million people living in areas downstream Kotri and Arabian Sea are dying from thirst and poverty. They are Pakistanis and Muslims (of course not Punjabi).

      Why people like you have taken “criminal silence” on it. It is better to call you as “Punjabi Chauvinist”.

      September 14, 2010 at 8:37 pm Reply
    4. Its very helpfull. It would have been better if you provide maps of irrigation system.

      September 2, 2010 at 3:14 pm Reply
    5. It was very good if this site could provide the total no of rivers, barrages and headworks in pakistan

      August 16, 2010 at 10:02 am Reply
    6. very nice info

      August 13, 2010 at 2:17 pm Reply
    7. Shafqat ali Shahani #

      Dear Akram which points u have mention in ur defencive reply to Mr: Irshad Ali Sajrani being a sindhi i am totaly agree with them ,but for suppose for a while i forget that iam a sindhi and being a pakistani can our such stupid minister became agree for such project which u have mention in ur reply .Dear our all not only one or few but all off the ministers and head of the departments are corrupt and son of bitch, when they people think that they don’t have to live in pakistan in future then why they fight for our or ur or basic human rights .there here in pakistan there is no strategic of fruit full planning then why we fight with each other for the sake of nation.
      Mr Irshad iam totally agreee with u but what can we do .even our leaders are gando. Hope ALLAH Pak wiil protect the Sindh

      August 7, 2010 at 12:41 am Reply
    8. Kamran #

      Pakistan Is suffering from
      60 years of Viral knwon as Corruption
      It has resulted in
      Malnutrition of Country in following ways

      Extinct Basic Eduction System for General Public
      Detoriation of Skills
      Detoriation of Law & Order
      De genration of Civilized Society

      Soloution is simple
      Education, Skils Development & Good Admministration

      August 4, 2010 at 12:21 am Reply
    9. Alamgir khan mandokhail #

      As water dose not have taste,colour, shape,size,rich.poor so we as a human and Being Muslims Should have the same attitude towards each other in reaching for successful solution of water mangment and crisis. why Punjab is always demanding more and more water every time. punjanb should devote and sacrifice in this matter if not then only why is SABAR for them.

      August 3, 2010 at 1:25 am Reply
    10. I need information on ” existing irrigation and cropping systems and trends in Sindh coastal areas and their drawbacks “.

      I need this information for my research paper.

      please email me any information regarding this on hanif.sadia@gmail.com

      May 19, 2010 at 10:31 am Reply
    11. taha #

      can you give me the advantages and disadvantages of having these types of irrigation systems

      May 18, 2010 at 11:00 pm Reply
    12. Obaid #

      Well the comments are commendable which lured me into forwarding my teeny problem.
      I will definitely post my own comments depending upon the assistance i get from this site.. (no blackmailing lol!)
      I am working in a government GIS department. Can any body provide me the list of present and future dams, barrages and head-works in Pakistan. I desperately need them to finish off my project of digitizing Pakistan, in which dams are a small part of it. I searched out the webs but most of the data is either incorrect or incomplete as there are few dams which i had visited myself but are not mentioned anywhere (like shahpur dam, khanki dam etc).
      ( I will be more obliged if the source is given as well for future reference and authentication)
      For the return honours, i will be available for any GIS help which i can provide

      Thanking you in anticipation

      May 11, 2010 at 10:27 am Reply
    13. qasim zia bhatti #

      the economy of pakistan is totally based on the agriculture.for the better production of agriculture produce,most pure water is required.pakistan irrigation system is very vast and developed in the world

      May 8, 2010 at 2:33 pm Reply
    14. M Iqbal Malik #

      It is really very important to know the fact that price for indus water was to handover the exclusive rights for three western rivers which were irrigating the south punjab (the Seraikee area).In return it was decided that world bank will finance for Kalabagh dam which wasn financed too.Unfortunately,Punjabi lobby with Sindhi selfcentered separist provoked the issue. it is limit of unfortune for those whoi have given their share of water to have indus with Pakistan are now being deserted.

      May 8, 2010 at 1:45 pm Reply
    15. sajjad hyder #

      its really very infomatic related to pakistan

      March 25, 2010 at 11:21 pm Reply
    16. M.AKRAM KHAN NIAZI #

      Poisioning, contaminating and polluting the God gifted River Indus sweet water with sea water or with salts of land and mines is a crime, a sin, a cruelty and denial the blessing of God.
      India is having large number of rivers and is six times larger than Pakistan but is not wasting water of its any river in the sea.
      if we can not use these resources and just waste them then it will be better to give these resources to India.
      From last million of years in Rain season all coastal areas and Arabian Sea comes under Sweet water but still salinity is there, there fore it is foolish Idea that by wasting River Indus sweet water on land or sea will have any influence on salt content of soil or sea.
      The foolish reasons on the basis of which we are wasting River Indus water in the sea and the way we Pakistanis are Victimimizing and abusing River Indus due to provincialism and ethnocentrism and not utilizing for cultivation of land, not building dams like Kalabagh Dam and by not using for generation of electricity, it is expected that India will not allow us to do such malpractices in future and will take all advantages by utilizing Indus water itself for its own population and it is certain that world community will support India.
      What damage sea water can cause to the land of Thatta and Badin which have already huge mines of salts and these mines are the main source of salt for salt factories, following is the profile of one Company.
      SALT FIELDS/MINES
      AL-AMIN SALT REFINERY IS HAVING THEIR OWN 550 ACRES OF LAKE SALT MINES APPROX. IN THE DISTRICT OF THARPARKER AND DHABEJI, DISTRICT THATTA. OUR SALT IS HARVESTED FROM NATURALLY OCCURRING SALT LAKES WITH THE PRODUCTION OUT PUT IS 40,000 TONES PER DAY APPROX. OUR RAW SALT HARVESTING TECHNOLOGY IS TOTALLY EQUIPPED WITH MINING TECHNOLOGIES MACHINE TO GUARANTEE THE RAW SALT QUALITY AND BETWEEN 94-97% PURITY. MOST OF OUR SALT FIELDS ARE WELL CONNECTED WITH HIGHWAYS. OUR RAW SALT IS MANUFACTURED AND PROCESSED TO CERTAIN PROCEDURES AND FINALLY TRANSPORTED THROUGH COMPANY OWNED VEHICLES TO OUR REFINERY PLANTS IN KARACHI.

      It is the example of just one factory which is announcing that
      in Thatta their mine OUT PUT IS 40,000 TONES PER DAY, and we are wasting our sweet water in not only saline Arabian sea but also on huge deposits of natural salt mines.
      In Karachi and in Guwadour there is no sea intrusion, but just a reason for wastage of River Indus in sea, there is an intrusion of sea water in the mines and lakes of salts.
      People of Thatta/badin should be given as much water as required for cultivation but wastage of God gifted sweet water in the sea or in the salt mines of Thatta is not acceptable to any sensible person or human in any condition.
      It will be better to use water of Indus in the desert of Tharparkar and land between Karachi and Hyderabad, and further beyond Karachi and coastal areas of Makran, but also in state of Rajasthan and Gujarat of India but wastage in the sea or in the salt mines of Thatta is not acceptable to any sensible person or human in any condition.
      It is very strange to note that present Government is advocating for
      Air Polluting Thar Coal Project Versus Environmental Friendly Kalabagh Dam.
       Kalabagh dam which will increase the water resources of the country is being opposed while Thar coal project, which will consume huge amount of water and will contaminate all water, air and land resources of Pakistan is being advocated by the government Clean electricity produced by Kalabagh dam will be available to every one citizen of the country while Thar coal project will pollute all water, air and land resources of Pakistan for every one.Thar coal will effect each and every living organism while Kalabagh will not only store water for the time of need but with the generation of electricity will increase the resources of water by sucking up the underground water resources and will provide the clean electricity .

      March 18, 2010 at 5:19 pm Reply
    17. M.AKRAM KHAN NIAZI #

      No Intrusion of sea but Intrusion River Indus in the sea for wastage:
      How water of arabian sea is intrusing the agricultural land in Thatta & Badin districts, When already huge deposits of saline salts are present in Thatta and most of salts factories are using that salt as raw materials.Any fool can have such logic that Pakistan is a country in the world whose wast land are deserted and arid like Cholistan and Thar and still that country is wasting its sole tinny river sweet water in huge sea, and thinking that sweet water will change the salinity of sea,if it was true then every country of the world was going to waste its river water in the sea for cultivation of crops in its coastal areas, but this foolishness is going on just in Pakistan.

      It is not sea water which is creating problem of salinity,infact it is excessive wastage of River sweet water on land which causes problem of salinity such as in upper sindh where rice crop is cultivated for which extra water is used for irrigation,these are are suffering from problem of salinity due to wastage of water and not due to sea water.

      Sea salt are soluble in both sweet water and saline water,as much water you will you will flow on salt as much salt will spread on land and as much area will continue to suffer from salinity, in Punjab and upper Sindh there is no sea but problem of salinity due to wastage is present infact every where.

      March 18, 2010 at 4:12 pm Reply
    18. M.AKRAM KHAN NIAZI #

      Wastage of Indus water in sea by Pakistan versus noble use of Indus by India.
      On one side we are blaming India for stealing our water for generation of electricity and irrigation,but question is if we waste our water ourselves in sea as sea fishes are thirsty or as there is shortage of rain on the sea while it is sea which receive the larger portion of rain as compared to land then infact India is doing a noble thing and we Pakistanies by wasting sweet water in the sea, are doing a crime and sin against humanity.
      According to Pakistan’s own admission a great deal of wastage of water is taking place ; it is going unchecked into the sea i.e. 38 MAF is wasted.
      Government of Punjab has chronically failed in protecting the rights of people of Punjab. Which is evident from the fact that it has not made any efforts for the construction of Kalabagh Dam while Govt of Sind is very proactive even in wasting the water of river Indus in Arabian sea.If Punjab govt can not protect the rights of people living alongside river Indus,it will BE better to separate out those areas from Punjab,so that those people can protect their rights themselves. From NFC award it is evident that Punjab Govt has sacrificed the rights of people just for pleasing those who always hate punjab. Moreover Punjab Govt has not raised any concern about the suffering of people of Punjab in Baluchistan,Karachi and Sind. Thar coal project will have adverse effects on each and every living organism,atmosphere,enviroment in Punjab but Punjab Govt foolish leaders has not shown any concern about that project.
      Due to incompetent Punjab Government , situation has so much deteriorated that other provinces which are very vocal about Provincial autonomy are interfering in the affairs of Punjab by violating provincial autonomy of Punjab , for example Sindh Province Government and Assembly has started to give suggestions to Punjab that which Canal should be kept opened or closed, which Dam (hydrel project ) should be constructed or not, and which land of Punjab should be cultivated or not, while Punjab Government is completely silent about such interference, while Sindh Government is busy in wasting River Indus water in Arabian sea which is a sin and crime against humanity but Punjab government is making no objection about such wastage.
      Instead of wasting River Indus water in the sea it will be better to divert towards Karachi and Coast of Makran and if it is not feasible then it should be diverted towards arid state of Rajisthan and Gujrat,where land is much more thirsty as compared to fishes of the sea.
      It is very strange that USA which has the largest reservoirs of fresh water in the world, is seeing its future in desalination of its sea water,while foolish rulers of Pakistan are wasting its sweet water in the saline water of sea.

      March 18, 2010 at 4:06 pm Reply
    19. Dear Akram sb,

      I would like to ask you that why you people want to split this holy country. As for as water in Arabin sea is concerned let me tell you that it is natural thing that it is very important to release water in sea.

      When you dont release water in sea than salinty and sea level increasing. Even the people leaving in Badin near by sea they dont ve water for drinking as the sea level has been increased due to river water that is not being released.

      Therefore i would request you that please when u don’t know the exact problem must not comment like this. Punjabi lobby always has played with all other provinces people.

      March 18, 2010 at 9:47 am Reply
    20. M.AKRAM KHAN NIAZI #

      Government of Punjab has chronically failed in protecting the rights of people of Punjab. Which is evident from the fact that it has not made any efforts for the construction of Kalabagh Dam while Govt of Sind is very proactive even in wasting the water of river Indus in Arabian sea.If Punjab govt can not protect the rights of people living alongside river Indus,it will BE better to separate out those areas from Punjab,so that those people can protect their rights themselves. From NFC award it is evident that Punjab Govt has sacrificed the rights of people just for pleasing those who always hate punjab. Moreover Punjab Govt has not raised any concern about the suffering of people of Punjab in Baluchistan,Karachi and Sind. Thar coal project will have adverse effects on each and every living organism,atmosphere,enviroment in Punjab but Punjab Govt foolish leaders has not shown any concern about that project.

      Due to incompetent Punjab Government , situation has so much deteriorated that other provinces which are very vocal about Provincial autonomy are interfering in the affairs of Punjab by violating provincial autonomy of Punjab , for example Sindh Province Government and Assembly has started to give suggestions to Punjab that which Canal should be kept opened or closed, which Dam (hydrel project ) should be constructed or not, and which land of Punjab should be cultivated or not, while Punjab Government is completely silent about such interference, while Sindh Government is busy in wasting River Indus water in Arabian sea which is a sin and crime against humanity but Punjab government is making no objection about such wastage.

      February 13, 2010 at 5:59 pm Reply

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