Research and Economic Development, Office of


Date of this Version



Published in: Future of Water for Food: Proceedings of the Future of Water for Food Conference Held at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln, May 3-5, 2009. University of Nebraska–Lincoln Office of Research and Economic Development (2009). Copyright © 2009, The Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska.


“If you look at Pakistan from space, you’ll see this green kind of dragon moving down,” Simi Sadaf Kamal said, “and that green would not have been possible if we did not have irrigation and irrigation-based agriculture.” Ninety-two percent of Pakistan’s land area is arid or semi-arid, yet about 25 percent of Pakistan’s gross domestic product comes from agriculture. Most of Pakistan’s irrigated agriculture is in the Indus Plain, which comprises about 25 percent of the country’s total land area. The 85 percent of the cultivated area in the Indus Plain that is irrigated, indicated by the green area on the image from space, produces 90 percent of Pakistan’s food and fiber requirements. (See page 41.)

History of water resources development in Pakistan: Kamal spoke about major events that shaped the recent history of water resources development in Pakistan. The early emphasis on technological advances in the 1960s changed to an increased focus on governance based-reforms, indicating changing trends in how Pakistan deals with water-related issues. The Indus Waters Treaty. The Indus River Basin, which spans India and Pakistan, has often been the subject of disputes between the countries. In the 1960s India and Pakistan signed the Indus Waters Treaty. Although often criticized as unfair to Pakistan, the treaty has enabled water managers to meet and resolve water issues, even when the two countries were at war. The Indus Basin supports the largest contiguous irrigation system in the world. Started when Pakistan was under British rule, the system has expanded over the last 60 years to include three large dams, 16 barrages, check dams to raise the height of water in the canals, 56,000 kilometers of large inter-linked canals and 1.6 million kilometers of other canal systems that provide irrigation water to 36 million acres (14.56 million hectares). Water distribution in India and Pakistan is based on a system of water scheduling that takes into account the variability of supply each season.