Pakistan Punjab Irrigated-Agriculture Productivity Improvement Project (pipip) Environmental and Social Assessment Directorate General Agriculture (Water Management), Agriculture Department Government of Punjab, Lahore November 2011

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e.5Alternative Methods of Implementing the Proposed Initiatives

The beneficiaries of the high efficiency irrigation/laser land leveling/water course improvement schemes under the proposed project would be required to share the cost of establishing the schemes. Once established, these schemes will be operated and maintained by the beneficiaries themselves. This arrangement will ensure ‘ownership’ of these schemes by the beneficiaries, and thus the sustainability of the initiative.

Other options include i) full cost of the scheme to be covered by the Project; ii) full cost of the scheme to be covered by the beneficiary. The disadvantages of these alternatives are quite obvious; the first option would result in lack of ownership of the schemes by the beneficiaries, while the second option may fail to attract the farmers to adopt the new initiatives included under the proposed project.

No major difference exists among the above options in terms of the environmental and social consequences, except that the selected option will ensure beneficiary and community participation.

f.Environmental and Socioeconomic Profile

This Chapter presents an overall profile of the existing environmental and socioeconomic situation in the Province as the baseline conditions for project and it’s ESA, since the sites for the interventions included in the proposed project are likely to be spread all over Punjab. This baseline has been prepared based upon the secondary literature resources.


The Punjab Province is located south of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province, the Islamabad Capital Territory, and Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK); southwest of the Indian-held Jammu and Kashmir; west of the Indian States of Punjab and Rajasthan; north-northeast of the Sindh Province; and east-northeast of the Balochistan Province (see Figure 5.1 for the map of the Province).

f.2Physical Environment


Punjab is Pakistan's second largest province having an area of 205,344 km2 (79,284 sq miles) after Balochistan and is located at the north-western edge of the geologic Indian plate in South Asia. The capital and largest city is Lahore which was the historical capital of the wider Punjab region. Other important cities include Multan, Faisalabad, Sheikhupura, Sialkot, Gujranwala, Jhelum and Rawalpindi. Undivided Punjab is home to six rivers, of which five flow through Pakistani Punjab. From west to east, these are: the Indus, Jhelum, Beas, Chenab, Ravi and Sutlej. Nearly 60 percent of Pakistan's population lives in the Punjab. It is the nation's only province that touches every other province; it also surrounds the federal enclave of the national capital city at Islamabad. This geographical position and a large multi-ethnic population strongly influence Punjab's outlook on National affairs and induces in Punjab a keen awareness of the problems of the Pakistan's other important provinces and territories. 20

The province is a mainly a fertile region along the river valleys, while sparse deserts can be found near the border with Rajasthan and the Sulaiman Range. The region contains the Thal and Cholistan deserts. The Indus River and its many tributaries traverse the Punjab from north to south.

The landscape is amongst the most heavily irrigated on earth and canals can be found throughout the province. Weather extremes are notable from the hot and barren south to the cool hills of the north. The foothills of the Himalayas are found in the extreme north as well.

Owing to its geographical disposition, the province exhibits wide variations of physical, ecological, socio-cultural, and environmental features down from north to south and across from east to west21. Topographically, Punjab can be divided into following five landforms22:

Upper hilly region

Potohar (or Potwar) plateau

Central plain lands (Doab23)

Desert like plains

Cholistan and Thal deserts.

The upper hilly region is a southward continuation of the Himalaya foothills of Kashmir. High rainfall, coniferous trees, and a cold weather characterize the region. Murree, with an altitude of 2,300 meters24, is a popular hill station and a summer resort. The Potohar Plateau, which also includes the Salt Range, is a land of undulating terrain. It lies between rivers Indus and Jhelum. Besides a number of important archaeological sites, the region is distinguished by diverse wildlife. The central part of the province comprises low-lying floodplains along the rivers. This geographical relief has facilitated large-scale cultivation, development of an extensive irrigation network, construction of roads, railways, and other infrastructure. The general trend of gradient in plains is from north to south and from west to east. The desert like plains present a transition zones between floodplains and the deserts of Cholistan and Thal. Development of surface irrigation, to some extent, has transformed their morphology into irrigable tracts. Thal and Cholistan exhibit true desert features. Cholistan, locally known as Rohi, spans over an area of 16,000 km². It continues into Sindh province under the name “Thar” and into India as “Rajhistan”25.

f.2.2Geology and Seismology

Approximately 70 percent land area of the province comprises floodplains of Indus Basin. Geologically, lands in the floodplains are lightly mantled with alluvial deposits transported from the Himalaya foothills. The underlying bedrock is composed of Precambrian metamorphic and tertiary consolidated rocks. The overlying alluvium consists of Pleistocene to recent unconsolidated deposits of sand, clay and silt. The formation age of the alluvium also relates from Pleistocene to recent, the latter being predominant near the riverbanks and the former around the central part of the plains26.

According to the seismic map of Pakistan, most parts of the province lie in zone “2A” of the Earthquake Zones Classification of the Uniform Building Code (UBC – 1997) of the United States. This zone is associated with unknown geologic conditions and the earthquake damage is “moderate”. However, earthquakes of magnitude up to five on the Richter scale, which generate ground acceleration up to 0.1g, have been reported for this zone27.

f.2.3Soil Morphology

The texture, morphology, and moisture holding capacities of the soils in the province vary from region to region. The surface crust soils are composed of alluvial deposits consisting of silt, clay, sand, and loam. Clay and silt formations occur in discontinuous layers with limited lateral extent. Their thickness is generally less than five meters28. Due to rich surface irrigation in the central Punjab, the fertile soils of the floodplains give a good per unit yield29.

f.2.4Meteorology, Climate, and Air Quality

Most areas in Punjab experience fairly cool winters, often accompanied by rain. By mid-February the temperature begins to rise; springtime weather continues until mid-April, when the summer heat sets in.

The onset of the southwest monsoon is anticipated to reach Punjab by May, but since the early 1970s the weather pattern has been irregular. The spring monsoon has either skipped over the area or has caused it to rain so hard that floods have resulted. June and July are oppressively hot. Although official estimates rarely place the temperature above 46°C, newspaper sources claim that it reaches 51°C and regularly carry reports about people who have succumbed to the heat. Heat records were broken in Multan in June 1993, when the mercury was reported to have risen to 54°C. In August the oppressive heat is punctuated by the rainy season, referred to as barsat, which brings relief in its wake. The hardest part of the summer is then over, but cooler weather does not come until late October.30

The general pattern of climate in the upper Punjab is characterized by a relatively higher rainfall (approximately 1,000 mm compared to province’s average of 351 mm/annum)31, high humidity, low temperatures, and heavy monsoon precipitation. Southern Punjab has a hot and dry climate with low rainfall32. Summers are hot with moderate humidity, whilst winters exhibit extreme cold. Spring and autumn seasons are the most pleasant parts of the year. Mean winter temperature (December/January) in the plains and desert areas range between 8.5°C and 12.5°C. The mean summer temperature remains around 35°C to 39°C with spikes crossing 42°C. The mean of the maximum temperature ranges between 29-30°C and mean of the minimum from 15-16°C33. Approximately 50 percent of the average annual rainfall occurs during monsoon in the months of July and August34. The past climatic records indicate that rain rich years occurred at a cycle of 15-20 years with intervening dry period35.

Air Quality

A joint air quality study of Lahore, Rawalpindi, and Islamabad by the Pak-EPA and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), showed that the average suspended particulate matter (SPM) in the study districts was 6.4 times higher than WHO Guideline Values. The levels of sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and oxides of nitrogen also exceeded the acceptable standards in some areas, but the average levels were below the Guideline Values36. Another similar study of Gujranwala and Faisalabad also revealed higher concentrations of SPM in the ambient air37. However, barring congested urban centers, air quality in rest of the province generally conforms to WHO Guideline Values38. However, the project sites will essentially be located in rural areas where the ambient air quality is likely to be free from most of the criteria pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and oxides of nitrogen.

f.2.5Surface Water Resources

The River Indus and its tributaries constitute the surface water resources of the area. These are briefly described below.

Indus River: The Indus River and its tributaries are the main source of surface water in the Punjab Province (and in the country). The Indus rises in Tibet, at an altitude of about 5,486 m (18,000 feet) above mean sea level (amsl), and has a total catchment area of 654,329 km2. Length of the Indus River in the country is about 2,750 km. Five main rivers that join the Indus from the eastern side are Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Beas and Sutlej. Besides these, two minor rivers  Soan and Haro  also drain into the Indus. On the western side, a number of small rivers join Indus, the biggest of which is River Kabul with its main tributaries i.e. Swat, Panjkora and Kunar. Several small streams such as Kurram, Gomal, Kohat, Tai, and Tank also join the Indus on the right side.

The Indus River exhibits great seasonal variations, with more than 80 percent of the total annual flow occurring during the summer months, peaking in June, July and August.

The Indus River and its tributaries on an average bring about 190 billion cubic meters (bcm) (154 million acre-feet  MAF) of water annually. This includes 178.7 bcm (144.9 MAF) from the three western rivers and 11.2 bcm (9.14 MAF) from the eastern rivers. Most of this, about 129.1 bcm (104.7 MAF) is diverted for irrigation, 48.6 bcm (39.4 MAF) flows to the sea and about 12.2 bcm (9.9 MAF) is consumed by the system losses which include evaporation, seepage and spills during floods. The flows of the Indus and its tributaries vary widely from year to year and within the year. As is the case with the water availability there is significant variation in annual flows into sea.

Chenab River: The Chenab River is one of the major left bank tributaries of the Indus River. The River Chenab originates in the Kulu and Kangra districts of the Himachal Pardesh province of India, at an elevation of about 4,877 m (16,000 feet) amsl. The total length of the river is about 1,242 km, of which approximately 729 km flow through Pakistan. The total catchment area of the river is about 67,430 km2, of which 28,166 km2 lie in the State of Jammu and Kashmir, 4,494 km2 in India and 34,885 km2 in Pakistan.

Water discharges of the Chenab start rising in the later part of May and pass the 1,416 cubic meters per second (cumec) (50,000 cubic feet per second –cusecs) mark in June. A high flow above 1,416 cumec (50,000 cusecs) continues till the middle of September, the peak discharge months being July and August.

Ravi River: The Ravi River is the smallest of the five main eastern tributaries of the Indus. It rises in the basin of Bangahal, India, and has a total catchment area of about 40,769 km2. Length of the river in Pakistan is about 679 km. India has the full rights over the Ravi waters in accordance with the Indus Basin Water Treaty of 1960, and diverts all of its base flow for irrigation purposes.

Sutlej River: This Sutlej River originates in Western Tibet in the Kailas mountain range, near the source of the Indus, the Ganges and the Brahmaputra. It flows through the Panjal and Siwalik mountain ranges and then enters the plains of Indian Punjab. The total length of the river is about 1,551 km of which only 529 km runs in Pakistan. The total catchment area of the River is about 106,728 km2. India has full rights over Sutlej waters as well, according to the Indus Basin Water Treaty.

Rivers Water Quality: The water quality of Indus River and its tributaries is generally considered excellent for irrigation purposes. The total dissolved solids (TDS) range from 60 mg/l in the upper reaches to 375 mg/l in the lower reaches of the Indus, which are reasonable levels for irrigated agriculture and also as raw water for domestic use. The disposal of saline drainage from various irrigation projects has been a major factor in the increased TDS in the lower reaches of the rivers in the Punjab. There is progressive deterioration downstream and the salinity is at its maximum at the confluence of the Chenab and Ravi rivers, where the TDS ranges from 207 to 907 mg/l. A slight improvement in water quality is noted further downstream at Panjnad due to dilution from the inflow from Sutlej River. The quality of the Indus water at Guddu, however, is within acceptable limits for agriculture; TDS being in the range of 164-270 mg/l.

In the upper reaches of the Indus River, the Dissolved Oxygen (DO) content remains above 8.5 mg/l which is well above the acceptable levels of 4 mg/l. The Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD) downstream of Attock has been recorded as 2.9 mg/l. Indus River water quality has been studied at the Dadu Moro Bridge and Kotri Barrage, with nitrate levels at 1.1 and 7.5 mg/l, phosphate at 0.02 and 0.3 mg/l, BOD at 2.4 and 4.1 mg/l, faecal coliforms at 50 and 400 per ml, and aluminum at 1.8 and 0.2 mg/l respectively. Due to industrial waste discharges from Punjab and Sindh, a high content of heavy metals such as nickel, lead, zinc and cadmium have also been found in Indus water.


The Punjab Province can be divided in four hydro-geological zones: Potohar plateau and Salt Range, piedmont areas, alluvial plains, and Cholistan desert. The total groundwater potential in the province (52.7 bcm or 42.75 MAF) is based upon rainfall recharge (12.2 bcm or 9.90 MAF), groundwater recharge (8.7 bcm or 7.08 MAF), recharge from rivers (4.3 bcm or 3.5 MAF), and recharge from the irrigation system (26.7 bcm or 21.70 MAF).39

The Indus Basin was formed by alluvial deposits carried by the Indus and its tributaries. It is underlain by an unconfined aquifer covering about 15 million acres (60,700 km2) in surface area. In the Punjab, about 79 percent of the area and in Sindh, about 28 percent of the area is underlain by fresh groundwater. This is mostly used as supplemental irrigation water and pumped through tube-wells. Some groundwater is saline. Water from the saline tube wells is generally put into drains and, where this is not possible, it is discharged into large canals for use in irrigation, after diluting with the fresh canal water.

Before the introduction of widespread irrigation, the groundwater table in the Indus Basin varied from about 12 m in depth in Sindh and Bahawalpur areas to about 30 m in Rechna Doab (the area between Ravi and Chenab Rivers). After the introduction of weir-controlled irrigation, the groundwater table started rising due to poor irrigation management, lack of drainage facilities and the resulting additional recharge from the canals, distributaries, minors, water courses and irrigation fields. At some locations, the water table rose to the ground surface or very close to the surface causing water-logging and soil salinity, reducing productivity.

In the late 1950s, the Government of Pakistan embarked upon a program of Salinity Control and Reclamation Project (SCARP) wherein large deep tube wells were installed to control the groundwater table. Over a period of about 30 years, some 13,500 tube-wells were installed by the Government to lower the groundwater table. Of these, about 9,800 tube-wells were in the Punjab.

The SCARP project initially proved to be quite effective in lowering the water table but with time, the performance of the SCARP tube-wells deteriorated. The development of deep public tube wells under the SCARPS was soon followed by private investment in shallow tube wells. Particularly in the eighties, the development of private tube wells received a boost, when locally manufactured inexpensive diesel engines became available. Most of these shallow tube wells were individually owned.

In the last 25-30 years, ground water has become a major supplement to canal supplies, especially in the Upper Indus Plain, where ground water quality is good. Large scale tube-well pumpage for irrigation started in the early sixties. There are presently more than 500,000 tube-wells in the Indus Basin Irrigation System (IBIS). According to a study, the total groundwater potential in Pakistan is of the order of 67.8 bcm (55 MAF).

Major part of the groundwater abstraction for irrigation is within the canal commands or in the flood plains of the rivers. However, the amount of abstraction varies throughout the area, reflecting inadequacy/unreliability of surface water supplies and groundwater quality distribution.

The quality of groundwater ranges from fresh (salinity less than 1000 mg/l TDS) near the major rivers to highly saline farther away, with salinity more than 3000 mg/l TDS. The general distribution of fresh and saline groundwater in the country is well known and mapped, as it influences the options for irrigation and drinking water supplies.

Availability and quality of groundwater, the depth of water table, and the aquifer recharge rates considerably differ from area to area depending on a number of variables such as amount of precipitation, proximity to surface water channels, and other meteorological factors40. About 79 percent area of the province has fresh groundwater41. High fluoride content is found in groundwater of the Salt Range42. Water table varies from as low as 1 meter in the waterlogged areas to as deep as 90 meters in desert areas43. The groundwater is drawn through hand pumps, tube-wells, springs, and public water supply schemes. Tables 5.1 to 5.3 present typical groundwater quality of a few selected districts of the province i.e., Rawalpindi (northern Punjab), Sheikhupura (central Punjab), and Bahawalpur (southern Punjab)44.

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