PAKISTAN is struggling to achieve many Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) related to water security. While many countries have turned to precision farming and other modern techniques to meet their needs, policymakers in Pakistan seem intent on continuing with outdated methods. Outdated techniques used for irrigation and water conservation not only waste precious water resources but also contribute to the overall economic losses of the country.
According to a survey by some international organizations, Pakistan wastes about 30 million acre-feet (MAF) or 10 trillion gallons of water per year. Several other reports have repeatedly stated that Pakistan is the third most water-stressed country in the world and will face absolute water scarcity by 2025, when its population is expected to reach 227 million. The country’s per capita water availability has fallen by 400%, from 5,600 cubic meters in 1947 to around 1,038 cubic meters in 2021.
One of the key factors in the deplorable water crisis is the bizarre recruitment process within the irrigation department. Civil engineers are recruited on the basis of their expertise in the construction and infrastructure of water bodies, and they lack the required knowledge of agriculture and water conservation techniques. Most civil engineers hired have no background or work experience with modern agricultural techniques, such as hydroponics, a technique for growing plants without soil, and aeroponics, which involves growing plants in soils. tunes.
This institutional lack of expertise and knowledge in related areas ends up costing the country dearly both in terms of wasted resources and potential economic gains. This is exactly the reason why a large number of countries have changed their recruitment policies to match their needs and allowed the hiring of more niche experts in the irrigation sector.
It would be wrong to assume that such experts cannot be found in the country. A team of thousands of agricultural engineers works on modern techniques and has succeeded in developing many modern agricultural techniques.
However, due to the failure of government policies and the hegemony of related sectors that favor the status quo, these agricultural engineers are deprived of the opportunity to use their expertise and knowledge for the betterment of the country. Pakistan must be the only country in the world where the irrigation sector is run by irrelevant engineers with no knowledge of water conservation.
The influence of the civil engineers lobby within the Punjab Department of Irrigation was noticeable in a recent advertisement which appeared to be deliberately against the hiring of agricultural engineers. It’s quite unfair because these professionals are competent and best suited for most of these positions.
The inclusion of agricultural engineers will prove essential to address the impending water scarcity in the country and align the agricultural sector with less water-intensive techniques. Additionally, research has also suggested that switching to modern techniques would free up at least 60% of our water resources for human consumption.
Thus, the inclusion of agricultural engineers in the irrigation sector is a necessity of the hour and the authorities should modify the service rules for the departments concerned and republish the vacancies. Taking this step would be in the interest of the whole nation, as abundant water resources would also ensure the economic and social stability of the country.
Muhammad Anes Kamran
Posted in Dawn, February 6, 2022