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Published Date: Jun 15, 2000

Water Harvesting in Mountain Areas of Pakistan: Issues and Options (P-29)

Shahid M. Zia and Tahir Hasnain, SDPI


Pakistan is situated in the arid and semiarid region of the world between 24°N and 37°N latitude and between 61°E and 77°E longitude. Average annual precipitation ranges from 2000mm in the north to 100mm in the south (PCRWR, 1994). Pakistan has two mountain ranges in the Hindu Kush-Himalayas (HKH), namely the western mountains and northern mountains. Many rivers flow from these mountains to join river Indus. The Indus River and its main tributaries i.e., Kabul, Jhelum, Chenab, Ravi, Bias, and Sutlej, together form one of the largest river systems of the world. Pakistan operates the world’s largest contiguous gravity flow irrigation system. About 80 percent of the arable area have been brought under irrigation through a network of barrages and canals in lowland and plain areas of Pakistan (Annex 1, 2, and 3).

Mountain agriculture is still largely rainfed. Several indigenous water harvesting methods in mountain areas, such as rod kohi system (water of hill torrents collected in reservoirs and used for agriculture) in southern North-West Frontier Province (NWFP); sailaba and khushkaba systems in Balochistan have been evolved over time. To supplement surface water, ground water use through tubewells is getting popular both in NWFP and Balochistan.

This study reviews Pakistan’s water resources in mountain areas and their development potential for enhancing agricultural production. It attempts to examine water harvesting techniques and analyses impacts of selected policies, in this regard, on water resources and local communities.