Multi-pronged strategy needed to boost agriculture in Balochistan

QUETTA  -  Bestowed with vast tracts of land, hilly terrains, minerals, and lon­ger coast makes Balochistan a vi­tal appendage of the motherland with recent years witnessing the focus of respective governments to explore this potential. Although the province encompasses over 40 percent of the total land area of the country, making its land agri­cultural friendly remains a dream of the local people for decades. However, in recent years the proj­ects like Gwadar Port, Economic Zones, roads infrastructure, and overall development of the prov­ince have risen hopes that days were not far off when the province will also be self-reliant to feed its populace. Lesser precipitation of Balochistan in agricultural pro­duction as compared to other provinces had been a challenge as it lacked a mechanized irrigation system and its water resource could not be amply utilized.

Therefore, the Balochistan gov­ernment has launched a number of projects in the irrigation sector to make the province self-suffi­cient in the production of various food grains and bring phenom­enal changes in the livelihood and socio-economic condition of people. “The government is well cognizant of the needs and de­pendency of people and launched multiple projects in agriculture and irrigation sectors to bring barren land under cultivation and make the province self-sufficient in the production of various food grains,” said Balochistan Minister for Irrigation, Muhammad Khan Lehri. “With the installation of the project in the irrigation sec­tor, the province had been able to bring over 100,000 acres of barren land under cultivation to ensure food security for the ris­ing population,” he stated. He re­ferred to the installation of green tunnels for enhancing the pro­duction of off-season vegetables and fruits through tunnel farm­ing and said the provincial gov­ernment has allocated a sizeable amount to develop an irrigation system for improving agricultural produce. As almost 85 percent of the population in Balochistan lives in rural regions and relies mostly on agriculture and live­stock as a source of income, the government has also constructed 878 water courses and 361 water storage tanks to resolve water is­sues. It is hoped that the province will sooner experience a green revolution due to measures like tunnel farming, the Kachhi Canal, and the development of hundreds of small and check dams, water­ways, and water storage tanks.

“Kachhi Canal project would fulfill long-standing demand of the people of Balochistan and have positive impacts on its economy,” Lehri said. “It is a vital project to irrigate Balochistan lands and alleviate poverty.”

He said, “Besides executing projects to construct small and check dams for irrigation pur­poses, the government is also striving to convert tube wells to solar energy to provide cheaper power to this sector.” “It is a good sign that land is being cultivated in Sui and adjacent areas of Dera Bugti district through the exist­ing Kachhi Canal,” Lehri said. 

“Completion of its Phase-II is hoped to usher in a new era of development and prosperity in Jhal Magsi, Naseerabad, and Kachhi districts.” He also in­formed that a survey of phase III was in progress that would help further develop the agriculture sector in Naseerabad district.

Since we often come across the voice of deprivation from Balo­chistan, therefore, it is the prime responsibility of the provincial government officials to diligently pursue the ongoing projects and actively work for the province’s welfare. The situation can be far better if the political leadership, as well as the state machinery, take the masses’ development as a prime priority and everybody moves hand in hand to carry for­ward the agenda of progress. “It is the responsibility of all con­cerned departments to identify resources, improve canal system, construct dams, and promote water harvesting techniques to store maximum surface water,” remarked Secretary Irrigation Balochistan Abdul Fattah Bhan­gar. “These practices would help preserve groundwater to use it for drinking, rearing livestock, and other purposes.” He said, “Balo­chistan is a vast province having 85% dependency on Agriculture and livestock and this cannot be achieved and sustained without sagaciously using our water re­source through the construction of weirs, canals, channels, and delay action dams.” “Irrigation Depart­ment has also been mandated to monitor and improve the deplet­ing water table in 18 river basins across Balochistan,” he informed and mentioned to serious efforts of the present government for recharging groundwater aquifers, mitigating flooding impacts and controlling soil erosion with the construction of perennial struc­tures. As Balochistan is the hub of many precious fruits having vast orchards, therefore promoting these cash fruit crops cultivation and their value addition by set­ting up special agricultural zones could generate valuable revenue and bring positive changes to the lives of local people. Living in the same country, the people of Balo­chistan are equally entitled to lux­uries of life like residents of other developed parts of the country, and this dream can only be ma­terialized by adopting a multi-pronged strategy with param­eters of effective implementation ensuring that dividends of these measures also reach the poor people in across the province.

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