ISLAMABAD: The Asian Development Bank (ADB) Monday approved a $200 million loan for the development of an irrigation system in Punjab to help increase agricultural productivity and enhance food security.
According to a statement issued by ADB, the project loan, which is denominated in Japanese yen, will finance the construction of the second branch or Choubara system of the Greater Thal Canal irrigation scheme. The scheme will provide reliable irrigation water supply to 704,000 hectares of land in Bhakkar, Jhang, Khushab, Layyah, and Muzaffargarh districts, making them more agriculturally productive. The government of Pakistan has earlier constructed the main canal and the first branch or Mankera system.
ADB Director General for Central and West Asia Yevgeniy Zhukov said that given Pakistan’s vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, it is essential to build irrigation infrastructure for climate-resilient and sustainable agriculture. He added the ADB’s support will help boost the supply of local produce and promote food security, while increasing economic growth.
Punjab is the main source of food production for the country’s growing population, producing a significant portion of the country’s wheat, rice, sugarcane, and maize. Because of Pakistan’s semi-arid climate, agricultural production is highly dependent on irrigation. Yet, irrigation efficiency remains low due to water shortages, land degradation, and mismanagement of water resources.
The Choubara branch system ADB will help construct a 72-kilometer branch canal, 11 secondary canals totaling 251 kilometers, and 11 tertiary canals totaling 127 kilometres. ADB said it will also help develop on-farm agricultural command areas, pilot water conservation technologies such as land levelling and high efficiency irrigation systems and help to train farmers in water management and climate-resilient agricultural practices.
The main canal and Mankera branch areas have around 49,000 farmer households and about 38,000 in the Choubara branch areas. Most of these households own less than five hectares of land.
Pakistan is a founding member of ADB. Since 1966, ADB has committed more than $36.31 billion to promote inclusive economic growth and improve the country’s infrastructure, energy and food security, transport networks, and urban and social services. – TLTP