Improving water use
PAKISTAN is facing a serious threat to its food security and rural livelihoods because of escalating water shortages. In Punjab alone, more than half of the province’s share of water in agriculture is lost in canals and watercourses, while inefficient conventional irrigation method of flooding the fields also result in wastage. The water scarcity for agriculture is projected to increase manifold in the years to come as droughts become a norm in different regions — especially Balochistan — because of the changing climate, which calls for the adoption of efficient irrigation systems and better farm technology to reduce water losses and enhance water productivity for improved crop quality and higher yields. This is exactly the area where the World Bank has been supporting the Punjab government since 2013 to provide farmers with high-efficiency irrigation systems, including drip irrigation and sprinkler systems, and improving watercourses. Besides, it is helping the government in laser land levelling for minimising crop losses because of uneven fields and creating jobs in villages.
The project, for which the World Bank has so far provided $380m, has surpassed its original targets with almost a year still to go. The only area where progress is lagging is the provision of high-efficiency irrigation systems to growers, mostly owing to technical factors such as the unavailability of clean water to prevent clogging. The interventions have restored 4maf water ensuring that farmers at the tail-end also received their share, enhanced crop yields in the range of 20-100pc, reduced farm labour costs and the use of fertilisers, and created over 15,000 jobs. The adoption of new irrigation practices for improving water productivity can do wonders, allowing farmers to harvest multiple and off-season crops. The adoption of new technologies also encourages farmers to shift to high-value crops — fruit and vegetables — as climate-smart agriculture can help cut rural poverty. Therefore, the scope of this kind of intervention needs to be expanded to the rest of the country for both reducing wasteful water use and maximising its productivity in drought-hit regions.
ON the occasion of Kashmir Solidarity Day, Prime Minister Imran Khan made a statement that has created a stir and prompted his political rivals to accuse him of violating Pakistan’s long-standing position on the issue of Jammu and Kashmir. In his speech, the prime minister, while addressing the people of Kashmir, said that once they had acceded to Pakistan through a UN plebiscite, they could, if they wanted, opt for an independent state.
Critics say that by mentioning the so-called ‘third option’ of independence, the prime minister has strayed away from the two United Nations resolutions on the dispute that say the people of Jammu and Kashmir will have two options: join Pakistan or join India. The controversy got fanned when the Foreign Office issued a clarification saying there was no change in Pakistan’s position and it remained anchored in the UN resolutions.
The Foreign Office should have known better. This clarification was not required. By issuing it, the Foreign Office only added to the perception that the prime minister’s statement required to be clarified, which insinuated that perhaps there was something not right with the statement. In fact, the prime minister said nothing wrong. Article 257 of the Constitution of Pakistan states: “When the people of the State of Jammu and Kashmir decide to accede to Pakistan, the relationship between Pakistan and that State shall be determined in accordance with the wishes of the people of that State.”
There is no difference between what the Constitution states and what the prime minister said. If the relevant officials of the Foreign Office had paid greater attention to this article of the Constitution they would not have had to issue a statement and needlessly stir a controversy. One expects better judgement on such sensitive matters from the Foreign Office.
In fact, the prime minister’s statement is very meaningful and appears to have been issued after deep consideration. The statement will appeal to all those people in Jammu and Kashmir who prefer the option of independence. The prime minister has very intelligently communicated to them that once they accede to Pakistan, they can exercise the option of independence if, course, a majority of the people of the state opt for it. By saying this, the prime minister has also very correctly reminded the world that the issue of Jammu and Kashmir is primarily linked to the right of self-determination and is not about a disputed piece of land between two neighbours.
This is what our official position has always maintained, but by elaborating it in such terms, the prime minister has wisely reconciled the UN resolutions with the larger issue of the right of self-determination. The international community should welcome the prime minister’s statement and the people of Jammu and Kashmir should rest assured their right to choose will be respected by Pakistan once they accede to us.