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Pakistan’s economy has experienced recent declines in economic growth rates, falling from a high of 8% in 2007 to a recent estimation for 2013 of 3%. Much of the economic slowdown can be attributed to deteriorating and increasingly unpredictable macroeconomic and security conditions, as well as recent catastrophic natural disasters. Predictions of continued economic slowdown combined with growing concerns over debt, external financing, and fiscal weaknesses will continue to challenge the country.
Agriculture remains a mainstay of the national economy. Over recent decades Pakistan’s agriculture has made major gains, playing an important role in the achievement of national objectives related to economic growth, food security, poverty reduction, social stability, and trade.The sector accounts for about 23% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employs about 44% of the labor force. Around a quarter of Pakistan’s land area is under cultivation and is watered by the largest contiguous irrigation and canal system in the world, the Indus Basin Irrigation System (IBIS). IBIS accounts for approximately US$300 billion of investment (at current rates), 22% of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), 65% of its employment, and 70% of its export earnings.
Annually 120 billion cubic meters of the Indus water (out of 176 billion m³) is diverted through IBIS dams, barrages and canals to feed the irrigation sector. The hydrograph of the river is strongly seasonal with a long low-water season between October and March and a high-water season between April and September, driven primarily by snowmelt in the upper catchment and monsoon rainfall. The river usually peaks in mid-August or early September. The river carries large sediment loads due to widespread and rapid erosion in its upper catchment. It is estimated that about one billion m3 of sediment is deposited in its floodplain each year.
Sindh Province is home to over 52 million people. Over 60% of the population lives in rural areas where poverty is pervasive. A large number of the rural population of Sindh lives below the poverty line. The Indus river water is especially important to agriculture and the livelihoods of the population. It is estimated that the poor derive 56% of their income from agriculture. In addition, Sindh makes up a large portion (26%) of Pakistan’s cultivated area and produces about a quarter (24%) of major irrigated crops, such as cotton, rice, sugarcane, and wheat. The water management areas i.e. the cultivable command area is of order of 5.1 million ha. The actual irrigated area varies from year to year depending on availability of canal water.