AGRICULTURE NEWS

SINDH PLANNING TO IMPLEMENT WATER, AGRICULTURE TRANSFORMATION PROJECT

The Sindh government is planning to implement the Sindh Water and Agriculture Transformation Project (SWAT) with financial assistance from the World Bank to improve the institutional framework for water resource management. The World Bank’s executive board is expected to approve $292 million next month for the project and, in the meantime, an environmental and social management framework has been prepared to screen the potential environmental and social impacts of the project and guide the screening, assessment and management of environmental and social risks and impacts of subprojects that will be identified during the project implementation. A resettlement policy framework has also been prepared for the project to address the involuntary resettlement impacts of subprojects. The proposed interventions under SWAT will directly benefit about 1.8 million people and 700,000 hectares of agricultural land. Sindh’s multi-purpose canal system needs to be modernized in terms of infrastructure, operations and institutions to meet the needs of agriculture, cities and industry in the context of a growing population, expanding economy and changing climate. The World Bank project document says that agricultural land in low-lying areas of Sindh, downstream Indus, is highly exposed to flooding, threatening food security in the province and across the country. Affected severely by the 2022 floods, agriculture is the mainstay of rural Sindh, but lack of modern integrated water resources management is undermining environmental sustainability and impacting economic growth and public health. The irrigation canal network in Sindh is spread over 17 districts, and interventions through SWAT are expected to be implemented in all these districts. About 20 million people live in these districts. The project will focus on the Left Bank canals of the Indus River: Ghotki feeder canal with a command area of 381,000 hectares; Nara canal with a command area of 1,047,946 hectares and Akram Wah and New Phulleli canals with a command area of 592,548 hectares. SWAT will also focus on completing the “last mile connections” in the canal network upgraded through the recently completed bank-funded Water Sector Improvement Project (WSIP) and ongoing Sindh Barrages Improvement Project (SBIP). In addition, SWAT will introduce modernization concepts for canal operation and irrigation service that will help Sindh make better use of these infrastructure investments. The project consists of six components: water resource management policy and institutional reforms in Sindh; water service delivery improvement of irrigation services; agricultural incentives and investments to promote higher value, water thrifty crops; project coordination and monitoring to support the implementation of the project; agricultural flood emergency rehabilitation to help small farmers recover from the 2022 floods; and contingent emergency response to support any unforeseen emergency needs from natural disasters.