Greening Attock, One Drop at a Time
May 27, 2014
- In Attock District Punjab, both per unit land and per cubic meter of water, the productivity is much lower than the international standards and poorer than neighboring countries having similar agrarian conditions.
- Surface water available to farms is not enough to meet needs and irrigate even a fraction of cultivable land.
- The World Bank assisted Punjab Irrigated Agriculture Productivity Improvement Project (PIPIP) is helping farmers to adopt High Efficiency Irrigation Systems for cultivation; increasing efficiency of irrigation conveyance network, enhanced productivity, and mobilizing farming communities to share investment costs.
Attock, Punjab, Pakistan – Attock District in Pakistan's province of Punjab is dotted with sandy plains, small plateaus and views of the Kala Chitta Mountains. Despite having immensely fertile land across the district, inhabitants still stick to centuries-old irrigation practices. The economy of the district is mainly agriculture-based with peanuts, wheat, maize, millets, grams, corn and pulses being the main crops. Peanuts are a major cash crop in Attock.
Around 90% of the water in Attock is used for agricultural purposes, although surface water supplies do not meet irrigation requirements, and Attock depends mostly on rainfall to meet these agricultural needs.
As one enters Attock through Tehsil Hazro (a smaller sub-unit of the district), newly grown orchards are refreshing to one’s eyes, astonishing to see oranges in the land of peanuts. The main obstacle of low productivity from the otherwise highly productive land is the inadequate availability and the improper use of water.
Ghulam Asghar the Deputy District Officer of Tehsil Hazro explains, “Due to the lack of water supply to the fields the productivity is much lower than the international standards and poorer than our neighboring countries having similar agrarian conditions.” The World Bank supported Punjab Irrigated Agriculture Productivity Improvement Project (PIPIP) has greatly helped to improve water productivity in the district, “through High Efficiency Irrigation System (HEIS),” says Asghar. “Due to this project, farmers have also started multi-cropping, which is a fairly new concept in Pakistan.”
Rustam Khan, a farmer in Tehsil Hazro candidly talks about one of the widely used components of PIPIP, drip irrigation, which is making multi-cropping possible in a place where water is a rare commodity. “On this land, we used to just grow peanuts and pray for rain. The surface water available to the farm was not enough to irrigate even 10% of my land. Ever since we have been introduced to drip irrigation, there is a positive change in our lives. Now people from all over the Tehsil visit our farm and ask how it happened. The value of land has increased from Rs10,000 per acre to 400,000 to 500,000.”
The positive social and environmental impacts have been significant as this project increased water conservation, improved employment opportunities and enhanced social mobilization by establishing the Water Users Association.
Regional Project Director, Bashir Ahmad says, “the project has led to increased efficiency of irrigation conveyance network, enhanced water productivity by producing more crop per drop, irrigation service delivery and mobilizing farming communities in order to share investment costs for development, improvement and management of farm level irrigation infrastructure.”
Another farm owner, Amer Aziz, acquired the land in 2011 in Tehsil Pindigheb, Attock where the water table is 120 meters deep. Sharing details of the farm’s condition he said, “It was difficult to appreciate a dune-filled terrain but I bought it after thorough research and soil testing. I made full use of HEIS and used laser land leveling for this terrain, whereas, drip irrigation helped me fulfil my dream of turning this into a model farm. Now you can see the first crop which is ready for harvesting and about to hit the market.”
The World Bank-assisted PIPIP interventions are demand based and environment friendly. “The positive social and environmental impacts have been significant as this project increased water conservation, improved employment opportunities and enhanced social mobilization by establishing the Water Users Association. The drip irrigation method also ensures delivery of clean water to crops, increasing productivity,” says Abdul Ghafoor, Deputy District Officer Water Management, Pindigheb.
A very hopeful Bashir Ahmad, an engineer, believes that the project will soon bring very good news for the people of Attock, “Seeing is believing. I am certain that district Attock will become a prosperous valley in no time: a valley of citrus, olives and grapes.”
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