Shortage of ground water leaves farmers in jeopardy

 Mon 19 Jun 2017

Esmat Morady

KANDAHAR CITY (SW): 45-year-old farmer Mohammad Aslam in Kandahar’s Dand district these days spent most of his time worrying about shortage of water that has adversely affected his grapes garden.

Sitting next to a mud wall in his garden, Aslam keeps gazing at his orchard slowly and gradually losing its past glory. His garden once produced tons of grapes in each season, but now the plants are drying-up due to shortages of water. He is not alone facing the troubles in this regard as most of the farmers in Dand are faced with similar fate.

He told Salam Watandar Kandahar residents used to visit his garden located near Mansuri Hill on holidays for amusement, but not anymore. Aslam said in the good old days, yield from his garden were making their way into foreign markets in Pakistan and beyond, but that all now seems a distant dream as water shortage is taking its toll on the farmers.

Aslam and other farmers in Kandahar’s Dand district installed solar power panels last year in a bid to extract underground water for gardening, but the ever-lowering level of underground water has now turned the option no more viable. He then bought a diesel-power generator to suck the deep underground water, but soaring prices of diesel emerged as another major hurdle.

The weary farmers informed that they approached the provincial directorate for the Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock many times, but to no avail. Eng. Habibur Rahman, director at the provincial Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock directorate, acknowledged the issue of water shortage in Dand district. He said one of the reason behind this issue is the fact that the provincial police headquarters have authorized digging of few deep wells in the district, which have eventually left negative impacts on the farmers.

The official, however, promised a check dam is in sight near the Mansuri Hill that would help up to 2000 farmers receive water for irrigation without any problem.

Situated at a distance of some 100 kilometers away from the provincial capital Kandahar city, Dand district is known for its apples and grapes in the region. An overwhelming majority of population here is associated with agriculture. Many are optimistic that the new dam would end their miseries in regard to water shortages.

Akbar Rustami, spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL), told Salam Watandar the Ministry has completed up to 24 new irrigation projects across the country in the past two years. He added many other development projects such as development of canals, sidewalls, pavement and boundary walls in rural areas have also been executed by the Ministry of Rural Development and Rehabilitation (MRDRH). As per his information, up to 1.5 million hectors of arid land has been turned into fertile land, and plans are in sight to irrigate even more this year. The MAIL spokesman went on to say additional amount has been allocated in the national budget for this purpose this year.

Official statistics suggest the country has up to 8 million hectors of agriculture land, and the MAIL has been able to provide water to up to 40 per cent of it.

Mohammad Ashraf, professor at the University of Kandahar, said that the government should get its act together in tackling the emerging issue of water shortage. He stressed more smaller dams should be developed, and the existing ones should be de-silted.