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World Bank drafts fix to Pakistan irrigation system

Written by: Staff
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WASHINGTON, Oct 25 (Reuters) World Bank staff have drafted a plan to tackle salinisation and waterlogging in its Indus Basin project in Pakistan, the world's largest irrigation system, according to a copy of a report obtained by Reuters.

The report, prepared ahead of an October 31 board meeting on the plan, says there are risks to delaying implementation of the plan, ''as well as risks arising from technical factors, difficulties in reaching consensus.'' A World Bank inspection panel, convened after complaints from Pakistanis in 2004, concluded in July that the 785 million dollars World Bank project did not sufficiently take into account the downstream effects on local residents.

The Indus irrigates 35.7 million acres, creating an irrigated agriculture system accounting for about a quarter of Pakistan's gross domestic product, two-thirds of its employment and about 80 per cent of its exports, the staff report said.

The World Bank has already spent 18 million dollars on improving living conditions in the affected areas since 2004 and is proposing a flood management and coastal development plan between now and 2009, as well as improving the irrigation and drainage infrastructure between 2009 and 2016.

However, non-governmental organisations, or NGOs, oppose World Bank funding of a new canal and dam network.

''The investigation by the inspection panel shows that the World Bank has not learned the lessons of its earlier fiascoes in the water sector,'' Ann-Kathrin Schneider of the International Rivers Network, an environmental lobbying group, said in a news release.

The Washington-based World Bank is a multilateral lender whose mission is to fight poverty around the world by providing financial and technical assistance.

REUTERS PB HT2112

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