ISLAMABAD: The World Bank approved on Friday a $188 million loan for consolidation of Guddu Barrage, the most strategic component of the Indus Basin irrigation system.

International Develop­ment Association, the low-interest arm of World Bank, approved the funding to increase the barrage’s lease of life by another 50 years, besides strengthening the Sindh Irrigation Depart­ment’s capacity to operate and manage barrages.

Guddu, Sukkur and Kotri, the three largest barrages built between 1932 and 1962, are managed by the provincial irrigation department.

The oldest of the three, Sukkur Barrage irrigates around 3m hectares of farmland and keeps enforcing safety measures and renovation on and off.

Rehabilitation work on Kotri Barge was carried out in 2000.

The approved loan would be spent on securing some 65 hugely rusted gates of Guddu Barrage whose 60 per cent of steel has been eroded thus creating operational difficulties. Besides, lifting mechanism of these gates is being constantly corroded which may make these gates inoperative, particularly during floods when these are more often opened and closed. This would eventually restrict water supply to irrigated areas, observed World Bank experts. They advise structural and operational interventions to manage flows to off-taking canals.

“Barrages are strategic assets of Sindh and millions of people depend on water that is controlled, diverted and managed by them. Its continued operation and management require expertise, experience, decision-making, and continuity of operation,” says Rachid Benmessaoud, the World Bank Country Director for Pakistan.

The Sindh Barrages Improvement Project would eliminate failure possibility and help finance experts to review, monitor, evaluate, and guide the rehabilitation process.

“Guddu Barrage constitutes the most strategic component of the Indus Basin Irrigation System. Its effective operation and structural stability are important for agricultural production and for averting potential disaster during floods. Climate variability will further add risks by changing the frequency and intensity of extreme events such as floods and droughts,” says Abdulhamid Azad, the task team leader of the project. “Thus, ‘no intervention’ is not an option.”

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