07 April 2020, 11:10
At the government conference call chaired by Prime Minister Askar Mamin, the issue of modernizing the irrigation infrastructure of irrigated lands was considered. Presentations were made by Minister of Geology, Ecology and Natural Resources Magzum Mirzagaliyev and Minister of Agriculture Saparkhan Omarov.
Currently, Kazakhstan has 1.5 million hectares of irrigated land, most of which are in the southern regions. Last year, 12.3 billion cubic meters of water was consumed for their irrigation, which is 67% of total water consumption.
According to the Minister of Geology, Ecology and Natural Resources Magzum Mirzagaliyev, over the past 50 years, the area of irrigated land in the world has increased 2.2 times. Thanks to this, the yield per hectare on these lands increased by 40%. Significant growth occurred in the Asian region, including two agricultural powers — China and India.
“According to the UN, by 2050 the world expects an increase in irrigated land by 6%. At the same time, the yield per 1 hectare of fruits and vegetables on irrigated lands will increase by 38%. To increase and restore water supply to 492 thousand hectares of irrigated land in Almaty, Zhambyl, Turkistan, Kyzylorda and Aktobe regions, a pool of projects combined in four blocks is being implemented, totaling 274 billion tenge,” Mirzagaliyev said.
Until the end of 2022, 6,785 kilometers of canals, 4 reservoirs, 4 hydroelectric facilities, 239 vertical drainage wells and about 23 thousand other water facilities will be reconstructed.
A total of 88 thousand jobs will be created. So, for the period of construction and installation works 11 thousand jobs will be open. In addition, this will allow to intensify the work of related industries in the production of building materials, the supply of technological equipment and machinery.
“But most importantly, the introduction of restored irrigated land into circulation will allow creating 77 thousand permanent jobs in the countryside. The gross agricultural output on these lands will be 165 billion tenge per year. In turn, this will create a further multiplier effect in the areas of trade, product processing, and animal husbandry,” the minister informed.
Thus, by attracting the World Bank loan in Almaty, Zhambyl, Kyzylorda and Turkistan regions, by the end of 2021, an infrastructure of 105 thousand hectares will be restored for irrigation. 2,500 kilometers of canals, more than 2 thousand kilometers of collector-drainage network, 221 vertical drainage wells and about 20 thousand other water facilities will be reconstructed.
“The implementation of the project will ensure the creation of 2,500 jobs for the construction period. After its completion, 20 thousand permanent jobs in agriculture will be created. The annual volume of agricultural production will be 60 billion tenge,” Mirzagaliyev noted.
Due to loans from the European and Islamic Banks for Reconstruction and Development in 2020-2021, water supply of 128 thousand hectares of land will be increased and restored in the Aktobe, Zhambyl, Turkistan and Almaty regions. As part of the project, 47 pumping stations and 91 kilometers of pipelines will be built, 3 thousand kilometers of canals and 302 drainage wells will be restored.
According to the minister, the project will create more than 57 thousand jobs, of which 4,600 are for the construction period, and 52,500 are permanent.
On these lands will be grown agricultural products in the amount of 105 billion tenge annually.
Under the Employment Roadmap and budget programs for 2020-2021, 21 projects are envisaged to increase the water supply of 260 thousand ha of irrigated land in Almaty, Zhambyl, Turkistan and Kyzylorda regions.
“Four reservoirs, 4 hydroelectric facilities, 18 vertical drainage wells and 487 kilometers of irrigation canals will be reconstructed. In total, about 8.6 thousand jobs will be created. Of these, 3,800 during construction, and after the completion of the project, 4,800 permanent jobs in the agricultural sector,” Mirzagaliyev noted.
As you know, the president in his Address to the People of Kazakhstan in September 2019 noted the need to increase the area of irrigated land by another 1 million hectares. In this regard, it is necessary to create additional sources of irrigation through the construction of new reservoirs. In total, by 2030 it is planned to build 28 reservoirs in Akmola, Aktobe, Karaganda, Zhambyl, Turkistan, Kyzylorda, East Kazakhstan and West Kazakhstan regions with a total volume of water storage of 3.8 cubic km. 470 thousand hectares of irrigated land will be connected from these reservoirs.
At the same time, 12 reservoirs are planned to be used both for irrigation and for removing flood threats from 70 settlements. The construction of reservoirs will create 29 thousand jobs in the rural sector.
Preparing for the current growing season
Based on the hydrological forecast of water availability for the current year, low water is expected in the southern and western regions.
“We have taken appropriate measures. The work schedules of reservoirs were revised taking into account the provision of irrigation water during the growing season. They are currently working in filling mode. Mechanized cleaning of 205 kilometers of canals was carried out in Kyzylorda, Turkistan, Zhamyl and Almaty regions. In the Kyzylorda and Turkistan regions, this work is underway,” said the minister.
Also 335 parts of hydraulic structures were repaired and 39 km of canals were lined.
“At the same time, it should be considered that our neighbors also have low water and there is a risk of water supply less than our needs. Work is underway with Uzbek, Kyrgyz and Tajik colleagues to ensure the necessary water supplies to the Turkistan, Kyzylorda and Zhambyl regions along the Syrdarya, Shu, Talas rivers and interstate channels. In particular, on April 10, it is planned to hold inter-ministerial consultations on the current water management situation in the selector mode,” Mirzagaliyev explained.
It is worth noting that the share of agriculture in the water balance is 67%. Given that Kazakhstan is a water-deficient country with a risk of reducing the volume of water available for use, an increase in irrigated land is possible only with the introduction of water-saving technologies during irrigation.
In addition to increasing the volume of gross agricultural production and creating additional permanent jobs in agriculture, the implementation of all the announced measures will allow to reduce unproductive losses during water transportation.
So, with an average weighted rate of irrigation of agricultural crops of 8.6 thousand m3 / ha, 12.3 km3 of water is consumed for irrigation of 1.5 million ha of land. With a decrease, due to the implemented measures, the average irrigation rate of up to 6 m3 / ha with the same volume of water, we will be able to water 2 million ha. A decrease in the average irrigation norm to 5 thousand m3 / ha will allow additionally introducing into the agricultural turnover 1 million ha of irrigated land without a significant increase in water withdrawal.
“It follows from them that the measures taken are not enough. It is also necessary to achieve reduction of water losses directly on the field. Irrigation types such as drip, discrete, sprinkling, and new land planning technologies can reduce water consumption by up to 33% compared to traditional irrigation. But, most importantly, the potential productivity of water increases, i.e. per 1 m3 of consumed water, the yield increases by 2.5 times,” Mirzagaliyev said.
For example, 24 thousand m3 of water per hectare is now consumed for rice. In the case of the application of new technologies for the planning of rice checks and irrigation without flooding, this rate can be reduced to 16 thousand m3 / ha.
It is also necessary to diversify crops, switching to less water-consuming and most profitable in the face of the existing risks.
In turn, Minister of Agriculture Saparkhan Omarov noted that in the structure of crops sown on irrigated lands a large share is occupied by cereal crops — 25.6%, fodder — 26%, cotton — 9.3%, oilseeds — 6.6%, rice — 6.2%.
“As you can see, at present, such crops as wheat and barley occupy the main share on irrigated lands. It is necessary to carry out work on diversification of irrigated land by reducing the share of rainfed crops and increasing the area for vegetable and melon and fodder crops,” Omarov said.
In terms of types of irrigation, the situation is as follows: surface irrigation covers 79.2% of irrigated lands, continuous flooding — 6.8%, drip irrigation — 3.3%, sprinkling — 10.7%.
Modern irrigation methods, such as drip and sprinkler irrigation, are used only on 14% of the area of all irrigated lands or 210 thousand hectares.
Therefore, an urgent task is to increase the share of the use of moisture-saving technologies in irrigation.
In order to stimulate agricultural producers to introduce modern water-saving technologies, investment subsidies are applied, which imply a reimbursement of 50% of the investment, as well as training for farmers and the dissemination of knowledge, including through a network of demonstration farms created with the American company Valmont.
“Undoubtedly, the benefits of irrigated agriculture are evident. Even with the high cost of modern irrigation systems, increasing the gross yield makes this type of agriculture attractive for investors,” the minister said.
As part of the tasks set by the Head of State to switch to highly profitable crops, import substitution, and to gradually bring irrigated land to 3 million hectares by 2030, a sowing area structure has been developed. This structure is brought to the akimats of regions for implementation.
On the whole, the effect of the ongoing work on introducing irrigated lands into circulation will be an increase in the gross harvest of agricultural crops and a decrease in import dependence on the main types of fruits and vegetables.
“For example, within the framework of the work being done by the Ministry to lay new orchards on the estimated 20 thousand hectares, it will allow reaching full self-sufficiency in apples,” the minister concluded.