International Symposium on
Drylands Ecology and Human Security

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Indigenous Knowledge and Water Management in Balochistan-Pakistan

Safdar Ali Shirazi

Department of Geography, University of the Punjab, Lahore, Pakistan


Karezes are subterranean tunnels that tap the groundwater and lead the water artificially to human settlement and agricultural lands using gravity flow conditions. In general Karezes are only found in dry areas. Karez systems are important for dry areas because if properly used they do not exhaust groundwater resources, even in times of drought. In Pakistan, Karez is one of the oldest traditional irrigation systems being practiced in Balochistan. This paper deals with the relationship between drought and sustainable use of water in Balochistan. This area has been severely affected by recent droughts, as have neighboring areas in Sindh and Punjab. The paper outlines the effects of the drought and deals with the “karez” an ancient water system that made survival and even prosperity possible in the perennially arid areas of Balochistan. The system of karezes, once established, is a source of water for years. According to an estimate, there were about 493 karezes in Balochistan .Some of them are older than 100 years. The average discharge of a karez is up to 200 l/sec, which can irrigate 10 to 20 hectares and can serve a maximum of 200 shareholding families. The flow in karezes of the Balochistan has been affected during the last decade mainly due to the drought and installation of large number of tube wells in Balochistan. The installation of tube wells has contributed significantly in lowering the water table and thereby reducing the amount of water in karez. Due to water imbalance between recharge and discharge of the aquifer of the sub-basin, this major problem has been arise, which demands immediate steps be taken to introduce remedial measures for an optimal solution. A combination of construction of water storage structure, introduction of watershed techniques and restriction in the further drilling of tube-wells is needed.  The present paper has identified a strategy aiming at “doing more with less water” for integrated water resource management in Balochistan viz; devise integrated water conservation strategies, water conservation, through awareness raising and supporting policies, use water more efficiently by the introduction of water delivery mechanisms including modern irrigation application techniques (e.g., trickle, sprinkle, etc.), research is needed on growing crops that do not require large amounts of water, hold the soil in place, and would be appropriate for subsistence and marketing in Balochistan. Finally, accurate climatological data must be collected since data is critically important for understanding longitudinal climatic trends and for predicting normal and abnormal rainfall patterns.