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Senators call for building small dams, water reservoirs

By Amir Wasim 2016-10-04
ISLAMABAD: Senators on Monday stressed the need for building more small dams and water reservoirs for the development of the agricultural sector and to overcome energy issues.

Before holding a fullfledged debate on the problems being faced by farmers on a motion moved by Taj Haider of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), the Senate unanimously adopted a resolution `recommending that a 250-kilometre highway be constructed along the coast from Sir Creek to Karachi to serve as a wall against sea intrusion`.

The resolution was tabled by the PPP`s Sassui Palijo after Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Shaikh Aftab Ahmed assured the house that the federal government would ask the National Highway Authority to construct the road once the Sindh government prepared feasibility of the project.

Ms Palijo warned that if the highway was not built, Badin and Thatta districts would drown under sea water in the near future. She urged the federal government not to leave the matter to the provincial governments and play its role in preventing sea intrusion considering its responsibility.

The PPP senator said sea intrusion could be stopped through construction of the highway, otherwise the coastal areas of Sindh would be completely annihilated.

She regretted that there had been no mention of the problem of sea intrusion in the government`s `Vision 2025 programme`.

She said that when it came to the affairs of ports and coasts, it became the federal subject, but when its attention was drawn to the submerging of over three million acres under sea water, the federal government started declaring it a provincial subject.

Shaikh Aftab admitted that a large part of land in the coastal areas had been lost due to sea intrusion.

However, he said that since the land belonged to the provincial government, it was its responsibility to take steps to prevent sea intrusion.

He said the federal government was ready to play itsrole and help the provinces in this regard.

Farmers` problems Later taking part in the debate on the problems being faced by farmers, the senators belonging to opposition parties criticised the government for what they called ignoring the agricultural sector.

The PPP`s Taj Haider called for introducing land reforms in the country, alleging that big landlords were exploiting small farmers.

The Federal Land Commission had also supported the need for land reforms, he said.

Independent senator Mohsin Leghari stressed the need for improving water management for better crops. He claimed that a large cultivable area had already been lost due to salinity and poor water management. He alleged that those involved in the busi-ness of pesticides were also exploiting the small farmers.

Usman Kakar of the Pakhtunkhwa Mili Awami Party asked the federal government to grant a Rs200 billion pacl(age for the construction of small dams in Balochistan.

Dr Jahanzeb Jamaldini of the Balochistan National Party-Mengal accused the rulers of not giving priority to the construction of small dams in the country.

Mohsin Aziz of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf regretted that banks were not providing loans to small farmers.

Without naming the controversial Kalabagh dam project, Ilyas Bilour of the Awami National Party said that whenever they talked about the need for construction of small dams, the ruling party`s members started talking about construction of one big dam.

Jamaat-i-Islami chief Sirajul Haq said the underground water level had gone down because the respective governmentshad failed to build reservoirs to save rainwater.

PPP`s Aajiz Dhamra regretted that the government had recently announced a Rs430bn `Kissan Package` but it later reduced the amount under pressure from the World Bank.

Concluding the debate, Minister for National Food Security Sikandar Bosan asked the provinces to also play their role in the development of the agricultural sector because the subject had been devolved after the 18th constitutional amendment.

He claimed that despite all challenges there was no shortage of food in the country as wheat stock was surplus and rice production was more than its requirement.

Mr Bosan said the package announced by the prime minister had only been implemented in Punjab because three provinces had not yet given their share for the package. He particularly criticised Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervez Khattak for what he called flatly refusing to jointly work with the federal government for improving the agricultural sector.

Meanwhile, speaking on a point of order, Hafiz Hamdullah of the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) drew the attention of the house to a reported statement of former military ruler retied Gen Pervez Musharraf that democracy did not suit Pakistan. He said the whole house should condemn the statement which showed that the dictator did not believe in democracy and democratic institutions.

Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani observed that the former military dictator was actually `insulting` the whole nation through such remarl(s.

Meanwhile, spealcing at the inauguration ceremony of the `Clerks of Parliament` conference earlier in the day, Mr Rabbani, in an apparent reference toGenMusharraf`s statement, said the future of Pakistan was in democracy and parliament and those who had something else in their mind were `living in a fools` paradise` `Any effort to weaken the democratic process and constitutional parliamentary system would be a threat to the federation,` he said, adding that a strong parliamentary administration and transparency could further augment the parliamentary system in the country.

The Senate chairman said that conscious efforts had been made by different forcesin the pasttokeepparliament in isolation from people. After the 18th amendment, he added, Pakistan had become a true federation.