By Mubashir Hussain
Gilgit-Baltistan is facing a serious water un-availability due to un even topography and limited cultivated lands .The Government of Gilgit-Baltistan is trying to implement technical and institutional measures to meet the challenge. One of the key strategies being persuaded by the Gilgit-Baltistan government is the devolution of management responsibility to users. Thus, irrigation management transfer through communities under Economic transformation initiative program in Gilgit-Baltistan (ETI-GB) has been adopted as a key strategy to improve the operation and maintenance, and thereby reduce losses, and enhance the sustainability of irrigation infrastructure through construction of new irrigation channels in core districts of Gilgit-Baltistan and generate farm incomes through land development .Through this initiative increase Agriculture income and food security for at least 1,00,000 households in Gilgit-Baltistan with its goal to improve income reduce poverty.
However, ETI-GB efforts are at an inception stage and are largely happening in areas where infrastructure is under construction. ETI-GB efforts in the four core districts of Gilgit-Baltistan , as well as the lessons learned from the rest of the country, and propose a viable framework for implementing participatory irrigation management. To get the first hand information of the ETI-GB activities in Gilgit-Baltistan, field visits were carried out in the districts of Gilgit-Baltistan as a implementing partner of the program where many big pilot projects are being carried out.
Gilgit-Baltistan lacks significant rainfall, averaging in 120 to 240 millimeters (4.7 to 9.4 in) annually, as monsoon breaks against the southern range of Himalayas. Irrigation for land cultivation is obtained from the rivers and nallahs abundant with melting snow water from higher altitudes.
The summer season is brief and hot. The piercing sunrays may raise the temperature up to 40 °C (104 °F), yet it is always cool in the shade. As a result of this extremity in the weather, landslides and avalanches and seasonal floods are frequent in the area.
Irrigation plays vital role in agricultural production in Gilgit-Baltistan, In the past decades irrigation channels/Watercourses were made by local farming communities for cultivation of crops as well as for irrigation of cultivable waste lands adjacent with entire populations, this is the peculiarity of the old traditional system that relevant farming communities maintained the irrigation system through their own efforts.
After revival and economic development in the region the trends of community participation in this sector are neglected by Governmental institutions as well as by the farming communities, these trends partially damaged the norms of farming communities resulting to fall down the concept of community based irrigation system in villages consequentially huge investments in this sector are not properly utilized due to absence of community participation.
The Water Management Department GB with financial assistance of Economic transformation initiatives (ETI-GB) has already identified irrigation management transfer as a policy for future water resources development and management in GB level, and is encouraging transfer of irrigation systems to local level organizations. The objectives of such efforts remain vaguely defined in terms of efficient water resources management, improved farm income and reduced government spending. Most of these objectives cannot be achieved simultaneously and need compromise. The objectives might also vary for different levels of an irrigation system. Thus, there is a need to clearly set policy objectives, and define a clear strategy for how to design, implement, and monitor Irrigation transfer Management in various river basins and agro-ecological settings to meet those objectives.
There is a clear need for institutionalized arrangements for social mobilization and capacity building, as well as strategies to achieve higher awareness and participation in both organizational development as well as organizational action. A social mobilization and capacity-building action program might be needed to success the participatory irrigation management in Government sector through legislation in Gilgit-Baltistan Legislative Assembly (GBLA).
The contributor works for Water Management Department GB.