Pakistan Ushers In New Era Of Intelligent Irrigation Technology

Pakistan is taking a major step towards sustainable water usage with the launch of the Intelligent Irrigation Technology Promotion Center.

Pakistan Ushers In New Era Of Intelligent Irrigation Technology

Pakistan is taking a major step towards sustainable water usage with the launch of the Intelligent Irrigation Technology Promotion Center.

The inaugural ceremony of the Intelligent Irrigation Technology Promotion Center took place at the PCRWR Headquarters in Islamabad on 30th November 2023, a collaborative effort between the Pakistan Council of Research in Water Resources (PCRWR) and China Water Resources Bei Fang Investigation Design and Research CO. Limited (BIDR).

This collaborative effort between PCRWR and China Water Resources BIDR aims to revolutionize irrigation practices for efficient water management.

Warm Welcome and Insights from Director General Dr. Hifza Rasheed:

The participants were warmly welcomed by Director General Dr. Hifza Rasheed, who emphasized the critical challenges of water resources management in Pakistan. Dr. Rasheed highlighted the pressing need for technological innovation to combat these issues and provided insights into the National Water Policy of 2018, emphasizing its priorities for water resources management.

She commended PCRWR and BIDR for their efforts in introducing smart irrigation technology, expressing hope that this collaboration would catalyze the adoption of water-efficient technologies in the irrigation sector.

PCRWR’s Initiatives and Research Infrastructure Unveiled by Ms. Bareerah Fatima:

Ms. Bareerah Fatima, Director of PCRWR, briefed participants on PCRWR’s research infrastructure, shedding light on different agro-ecological zones and the spatial and temporal changes in water resource availability and use. She underlined the crucial need for the technological transfer of tested innovations within Pakistan to enhance the country’s water management practices.

Chinese Water Management Initiatives Spotlighted by Mr. Liu Hairui:

In his remarks, Mr. Liu Hairui, Vice President of BIDR, highlighted various initiatives undertaken by the Chinese government in the field of water management. He expressed optimism about the collaboration’s potential to address issues related to crop productivity and effective water management at the farm level. The ceremony concluded with the joint inauguration of the Intelligent Irrigation Technology Promotion Centre by Dr. Hifza Rasheed and Mr. Liu Hairui, symbolizing a significant step forward in technological cooperation.

Significance of the Intelligent Irrigation Technology Promotion Center:

The Intelligent Irrigation Technology Promotion Center aims to revolutionize water management in Pakistan by introducing smart and innovative irrigation technologies. These advancements align with the goals outlined in the National Water Policy, emphasizing sustainability, efficiency, and the adoption of water-efficient practices.

Looking Ahead: A Future of Sustainable Water Management:

The collaboration between PCRWR and BIDR represents a harmonious effort to overcome water challenges in agriculture. As the Intelligent Irrigation Technology Promotion Center unfolds its initiatives, it is expected to play a pivotal role in shaping the future of water-efficient practices, ensuring a sustainable and productive agricultural landscape in Pakistan.

Technological Landscape:

Intelligent irrigation technology is designed to mitigate water wastage and enhance crop yield by delivering precise amounts of water at optimal times. The blog explores the various irrigation techniques available, including micro-irrigation, sprinkler systems, gravity systems, and drip irrigation. It emphasizes how smart irrigation systems, utilizing weather and soil data, represent a significant leap forward in efficient water management.

Micro-Irrigation: Targeting Plant Roots for Efficiency

Micro-irrigation stands out as a technique that directly delivers water to the roots of plants. This targeted approach minimizes water wastage and enhances crop yield by ensuring that water reaches the areas where it is most needed.

Sprinkler Systems: Overhead Precision for Large Areas

Sprinkler systems, a widely adopted irrigation technique, use overhead sprinklers to distribute water across a large area. This method ensures even coverage, promoting uniform plant growth while efficiently managing water resources.

Gravity Systems: Harnessing Natural Slopes for Water Distribution

Gravity systems leverage the natural slope of the land to distribute water. By harnessing gravitational forces, these systems provide a cost-effective and energy-efficient means of irrigation, particularly suitable for areas with varying topography.

Drip Irrigation: Precision Water Delivery to Plant Roots

Drip irrigation is a sophisticated technique that delivers water directly to the roots of plants through a network of pipes and emitters. This method minimizes water wastage, enhances nutrient absorption, and contributes to increased crop quality and yield.

Smart Irrigation Systems: Revolutionizing Water Management

Smart irrigation systems represent a recent leap in irrigation technology by incorporating real-time data to make informed decisions. These systems integrate weather sensors, soil sensors, and controllers to monitor current weather conditions and ground humidity. The controller dynamically adjusts the water valve based on the data collected, optimizing irrigation practices.

Components of Smart Irrigation Systems:

  • Weather Sensors: These sensors collect data on current weather conditions, including temperature, humidity, and precipitation, influencing irrigation decisions.
  • Soil Sensors: Monitoring soil moisture levels, these sensors provide crucial information to determine when and how much water is required for optimal plant health.
  • Controllers: The brain of the system, controllers analyze data from weather and soil sensors. They make real-time decisions to open or close the water valve, ensuring precise irrigation based on current environmental factors.

Benefits of Smart Irrigation Systems:

  • Water Conservation: By adjusting irrigation based on real-time data, smart systems minimize water wastage and contribute to sustainable water management.
  • Improved Crop Health: Precision irrigation ensures that plants receive the right amount of water, promoting healthier and more resilient crops.
  • Energy Efficiency: Smart systems optimize water usage, reducing the energy required for pumping and distributing water.

Future Prospects and Adoption Challenges:

As technology continues to advance, the widespread adoption of smart irrigation systems holds the promise of transforming agriculture. However, challenges such as initial costs, technical expertise, and awareness need to be addressed for broader acceptance.

Regional Perspectives:


Pakistan heavily relies on surface irrigation, covering 85% of irrigated land. Yet, awareness is growing about efficient alternatives like sprinkler and drip irrigation.

Dominance of Surface Irrigation:

Surface irrigation holds a stronghold, constituting 85% of total irrigated land. This traditional method involves controlled flooding for extensive crop coverage.

Emerging Trends:

A shift is underway, with increased adoption of sprinkler and drip irrigation. This signals openness to sustainable alternatives beyond traditional surface methods.

Adoption Challenges:

Challenges persist for sprinkler and drip irrigation, including high initial costs and limited technical expertise hindering widespread adoption.

Recent Developments: PIDA’s Role:

The Punjab Irrigation and Drainage Authority (PIDA) is at the forefront, launching an irrigation reform program to enhance water management efficiency.

PIDA’s Initiative:

PIDA’s program aims to overcome challenges, strategically addressing issues such as water wastage and suboptimal resource utilization.

Promising Impact:

PIDA’s initiative promises transformative effects, encouraging the adoption of efficient irrigation technologies, paving the way for a sustainable and productive farming future.


India relies predominantly on surface irrigation, covering 70% of irrigated land. To enhance efficiency, the government has launched the Irrigation Management Transfer (IMT) program, aiming to shift control to farmers through Water User Associations (WUAs). Additionally, while sprinkler irrigation gains popularity, challenges hinder the widespread adoption of drip irrigation.

Dominance of Surface Irrigation:

Surface irrigation prevails as the primary method in India, covering a substantial 70% of irrigated land. This conventional approach involves controlled flooding to irrigate large expanses of agricultural fields.

The IMT Program: Empowering Farmers for Efficient Management:

The government has introduced the Irrigation Management Transfer (IMT) program, aiming to transfer irrigation system management to farmers, particularly marginalized ones, through Water User Associations (WUAs). This initiative aims to improve agricultural productivity.

Sprinkler Irrigation’s Growing Popularity:

Sprinkler irrigation, covering 20% of India’s irrigated land, is gaining popularity due to its efficient water use and even distribution, indicating a shift towards modern, resource-efficient irrigation practices.

Challenges Hindering Drip Irrigation Adoption:

Despite advancements, the adoption of drip irrigation remains low in India. This can be attributed to challenges such as small farm sizes and high initial costs. The intricate nature of drip systems, requiring an upfront investment, poses a barrier for many small-scale farmers.

IMT Program’s Impact on Small Farmers:

The IMT program, involving small and marginalized farmers in Water User Associations, offers them greater control over irrigation decisions, potentially improving their economic and agricultural outcomes, and addressing the longstanding resource access issue.6. Future Outlook: Balancing

Efficiency and Affordability:

A India is aiming to modernize its irrigation practices by balancing efficiency and affordability, with challenges such as reducing initial costs and providing technical support being crucial for widespread adoption.


Dominance of Surface Irrigation (90%):

Surface irrigation prevails as the primary method in Iran, covering a substantial 90% of the irrigated land. This traditional method involves controlled flooding, ensuring widespread coverage of agricultural fields.

Low Adoption of Modern Technologies (5%):

Despite the prevalence of surface irrigation, the adoption of more efficient technologies like sprinkler and drip irrigation remains low, accounting for only 5% of the irrigated land. This indicates a significant gap in the utilization of advanced irrigation methods.

Government Efforts and Challenges:

The Iranian government has made efforts to modernize irrigation systems, recognizing the need for increased efficiency. However, these efforts have faced challenges, reflecting the complexities involved in transitioning from traditional to modern irrigation practices.

Ancient Qanat System: A Historical Perspective:

Iran holds a historical gem in its ancient qanat system. This traditional method involves tapping alluvial aquifers at the heads of valleys and conducting water along underground tunnels by gravity. Over millennia, this system has sustained food and livelihood security, providing a reliable water source to family farms in dry areas where agriculture would otherwise be impossible.

Potential for Efficient Technologies:

Iran possesses significant potential for expanding the use of more efficient irrigation technologies, especially drip irrigation. Leveraging the advantages of these advanced methods could contribute to enhanced water management and agricultural productivity.


Afghanistan grapples with water scarcity in its agriculture-centric landscape. Seeking innovative solutions, the country is turning to intelligent irrigation technology to optimize water usage and bolster productivity.

Current Initiatives:

In the early stages of adoption, Afghanistan showcases promising efforts:

FAO’s Solar-Powered Drip Irrigation:

Pilot project in Nangarhar province harnessing solar power for efficient water use.

ICARDA’s Sensor-Based Solutions:

Development of affordable, sensor-based irrigation systems for small-scale farmers.

Local Startups’ Innovation:

Afghan startups creating mobile apps for real-time soil and weather data, empowering farmers with insights.

Challenges and the Way Forward:

Addressing technological and socio-economic challenges requires a comprehensive, collaborative approach. Stakeholders, including government bodies and international organizations, must work together to create a supportive environment for adoption.

Comparative Analysis:

Dominant Irrigation Technology:

  • Pakistan: Surface irrigation (85%) with increasing adoption of sprinkler and drip irrigation.
  • India: Surface irrigation (70%) with significant use of sprinkler irrigation (20%) and growing adoption of drip irrigation (10%).
  • Iran: Overwhelming reliance on surface irrigation (90%) with very low adoption of sprinkler and drip irrigation (<5%).
  • Afghanistan: Primarily surface irrigation with limited use of intelligent irrigation technologies.

Government Initiatives:

  • Pakistan: Punjab Irrigation and Drainage Authority (PIDA) promotes efficient water management practices.
  • India: Irrigation Management Transfer (IMT) programs devolve control to water user associations.
  • Iran: Government policies support water conservation and modernization, but implementation is slow.
  • Afghanistan: FAO and ICARDA pilot projects demonstrate potential for intelligent irrigation.

Intelligent Irrigation Usage:

  • Pakistan: Early stage adoption, with pilots and projects focusing on solar-powered drip irrigation systems.
  • India: Rapidly growing adoption of drip irrigation technology, particularly in cash crop production.
  • Iran: Lagging behind in intelligent irrigation technology adoption due to financial constraints and limited infrastructure.
  • Afghanistan: Nascent stage, with international organizations and startups paving the way for future adoption.


  • High initial costs: Barrier for small-scale farmers in all countries.
  • Limited access to electricity: Major hurdle in rural areas of Afghanistan and parts of Pakistan and Iran.
  • Technical expertise: Farmers need training and support to effectively utilize technology.
  • Data connectivity: Lack of reliable internet hinders adoption of data-driven irrigation management tools in all countries.

Future Potential:

  • Pakistan: Growing awareness and government support create potential for significant expansion of intelligent irrigation.
  • India: Continued growth expected, driven by private sector investment and government initiatives.
  • Iran: Urgent need to address water scarcity necessitates faster adoption of efficient technologies.
  • Afghanistan: International collaboration and innovative solutions can accelerate technology adoption and improve water security.


Across Pakistan, India, Iran, and Afghanistan, the adoption of intelligent irrigation technologies unfolds at different paces, presenting unique challenges. High costs and entrenched practices pose hurdles, emphasizing the need for collaborative efforts to share knowledge and best practices.

The region’s potential for significant improvements in water use efficiency and agricultural productivity is evident. By fostering a collective commitment to innovation and collaboration, these nations can overcome challenges, ushering in a transformative era in agriculture. The shared journey towards sustainable water management not only ensures food security but also paves the way for a resilient and productive agricultural landscape across borders.

The Intelligent Irrigation Technology Promotion Center stands tall as a symbol of this transformative potential. This collaborative endeavor between Pakistan and China illuminates the positive impact that technological cooperation can have on shaping the future of farming across borders.

As we navigate the nexus of technology, collaboration, and sustainability, the beacon of intelligent irrigation guides us towards a future where agriculture thrives, resources are used judiciously, and borders become bridges to a shared and prosperous agricultural landscape.