Ghulam Zakir-Hassan, Faiz Raza Hassan, JF Punthakey and Ghulam Shabir
Pakistan has one of the world’s largest contiguous irrigation canal networks which was initiated by the British during the early nineteenth century, and its continuous expansion significantly altered the hydrological balance of the Indus River Basin (IRB) in Pakistan. During the pre-irrigation era, the water table in the IRB was very deep which rose up with the introduction of canal network. Seepage from the earthen canals caused the dual menace of waterlogging and salinity and different Salinity Control and Reclamation Projects (SCARPs) were implemented. With the growing food and fiber requirements, use of groundwater increased over the time. Currently, in Punjab province groundwater is contributing about 45-50% towards irrigation through 1.2 million tube-wells, putting the aquifer under stress. As water table deepens, the cost of extraction increases. Besides its use for irrigation, groundwater is used for drinking, industrial and commercial requirements. In many areas, the unplanned and over-pumping has caused intrusion of saline water into fresh groundwater areas. This paper describes the historical development and current challenges for sustainable use and management of groundwater. Some initiatives by the Government are described, with available opportunities. A new research project that considers the potential of artificial aquifer recharge as part of the management has also been discussed.
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