Oral Presentation NCGRT/IAH Australasian Groundwater Conference 2019

Improving groundwater management using a participatory research approach in Balochistan, Pakistan (215)

Syed M. Khair 1 , Abdul Rashid 2 , Farooq Ahmed 3 , Razzaq Khilji 4 , Michael Mitchell 5 , Catherine A. Allan 5
  1. Balochistan University of Information, Technology, Engineering and Management Sciences, Quetta, Balochistan, Pakistan
  2. Balochistan Agriculture Department, Quetta, Balochistan, Pakistan
  3. Balochistan Irrigation Department, Quetta, Balochistan, Pakistan
  4. Balochistan Irrigation Department, Quetta, Balochistan, Pakistan
  5. Charles Sturt University, Albury, NSW, Australia

NOTE: This abstract is part of a series of five connected presentations related to the ACIAR LWR-2015-036 project

Pakistan is one of the most water-stressed countries in the world. The situation in Pakistan’s Balochistan province is especially bleak due to extreme depletion of groundwater, which provides 50% of Balochistan’s water for irrigation. In view of the severity of the problem, a four-year research project for improving groundwater management in Pakistan was extended to include Balochistan.

At the provincial scale, the project relied on collaboration and partnerships established through participatory rural appraisals (PRAs). In Balochistan, these were undertaken in Pishin and Kuchlak sub-basins. Activities included group interviews, transect walks, direct observation, interviews with householders, and a subsequent survey administered to understand socio-economic conditions. Stakeholder forums were established to further co-design subsequent research activities. Piezometers were installed at four sites across the two sub-basins to enable water users, researchers and the irrigation department obtain real time date on groundwater depth. A mobile App has also been developed and introduced to help farmers monitor watertable levels, schedule irrigations and determine suitable cropping patterns.

PRA activities showed that small landless farmers are unable to afford modern technologies, so larger farmers lead adoption due to their wealth and influence. Cropping patterns are dominated by high water use horticultural crops using traditional flood irrigation. Groundwater is pumped from a depth of 100-170m mainly using electric motors. Because government subsidises electricity for this purpose, there is little incentive to use water efficiently, leading to an alarming 3-10m annual decline in the watertable.

The project research activities are helping farming organisations and partner government and non-government organisations promote improved irrigation practices, use of high efficiency irrigation systems, and lower water use crops. The involvement of stakeholder forums in the design of local research activities has been critical for developing strategies to enhance practice change among water users.