Funds intended to finance expansion of Greater Thal Canal irrigation scheme, providing reliable water supply to 704,000 hectares of land
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $200 million loan for Punjab province to develop an irrigation system designed to boost agricultural productivity and enhance food security.
Denominated in Japanese Yen, the loan would finance the construction of a second branch of the Choubara system of the Greater Thal Canal irrigation scheme, read a statement issued by the lender. It said it would provide reliable irrigation water to 704,000 hectares of land in the Bhakkar, Jhang, Khushab, Layyah, and Muzaffargarh districts, raising their agricultural productivity.
“Given Pakistan’s vulnerability to the impacts of climate change, it is essential to build irrigation infrastructure for climate-resilient and sustainable agriculture,” said ADB Central and West Asia Director General Yevgeniy Zhukov. “ADB’s support will help boost the supply of local produce and promote food security, while increasing economic growth,” he added.
According to the ADB, Punjab is the main source of food production for Pakistan’s growing population, producing a significant portion of the country’s wheat, rice, sugarcane, and maize. It said that the country’s semi-arid climate made agricultural production highly dependent on irrigation, requiring expansion to existing networks to overcome water shortages, land degradation, and mismanagement of water resources.
The Choubara branch system that would be tackled with the loan comprises a 72-kilometer branch canal; 11 secondary canals totaling 251 kilometers; and 11 tertiary canals totaling 127 kilometers.
The lender said that it would help develop on-farm agricultural command areas, pilot water conservation technologies such as land leveling and high efficiency irrigation systems. It said it would also help train farmers in water management and climate-resilient agricultural practices.
The Main Canal and Mankera branch areas cover around 49,000 farmer households, while the Choubara branch would add another 38,000. Most of these households own less than five hectares of land.
“By integrating infrastructure and agricultural interventions, this project directly supports smallholder farmers to manage their limited resources more efficiently and maximize the benefits from irrigated agriculture,” said ADB Principal Portfolio Management Specialist Natsuko Totsuka. “The project will strengthen the capacity of local authorities to maintain these irrigation systems, boost rural economic growth and help to reduce poverty in the province,” she added.