* TI says in Pakistan officials gain 8 times their salaries in bribes, 10 times in India
BERLIN: In Pakistan a quarter of the rural population is engaged in a hidden but well-known system of side payments to obtain irrigation water, a report by Transparency International (TI) released on Wednesday said.
The corruption tax on farmers for obtaining more water than their entitlements was estimated at 2.5 percent of their income per hectare, it added.
Functioning for decades now, this interlocking incentive system of bribery is considered by many a well-established ‘working rule’. The report said that corruption gains from irrigation have been found to dwarf officials’ above-board incomes. In Pakistan, they were estimated at five to eight times regular salaries, and in India up to ten times.
When irrigation water becomes scarce, corrupted allocation means that the last in line lose out, the report says, adding a system meant to distribute water equitably morphs into a water funnel for the rich, who can bribe their way to the front of the queue.
In response to growing scarcity, more farmers are engaging in informal negotiations and extra-legal transactions with irrigation agency officials to obtain water beyond their legal quotas.
Farmers who take extra water generally use it for water gulping crops such as rice, sugarcane and high-yield cotton. Meanwhile, down streamers can hardly produce the minimum amount of staple food and cash crops needed to survive.
Reform will not come easily, the report said. Implementing top-down anti-corruption measures would probably be ineffective at restoring equity in canal irrigation systems. Pakistan set up a system of ‘oversight’ in the 1960s and 1970s, but this only created a new layer of officials to be bribed. afp
Courtesy: Daily Times Pakistan