Farming is Pakistan's largest economic activity. In FY 1993, agriculture, and small-scale forestry and fishing, contributed 25 percent of GDP and employed 48 percent of the labor force. Agricultural products, especially cotton yarn, cotton cloth, raw cotton, and rice, are important exports. Although there is agricultural activity in all areas of Pakistan, most crops are grown in the Indus River plain in Punjab and Sindh. Considerable development and expansion of output has occurred since the early 1960s; however, the country is still far from realizing the large potential yield that the well-irrigated and fertile soil from the Indus irrigation system could produce. The floods of September 1992 showed how vulnerable agriculture is to weather; agricultural production dropped dramatically in FY 1993.
Pakistan's total land area is about 803,940 square kilometers. About 48 million hectares, or 60 percent, is often classified as unusable for forestry or agriculture consists mostly of deserts, mountain slopes, and urban settlements. Some authorities, however, include part of this area as agricultural land on the basis that it would support some livestock activity even though it is poor rangeland. Thus, estimates of grazing land vary widely--between 10 percent and 70 percent of the total area. A broad interpretation, for example, categorizes almost all of arid Baluchistan as rangeland for foraging livestock. Government officials listed only 3 million hectares, largely in the north, as forested in FY 1992. About 21.9 million hectares were cultivated in FY 1992. Around 70 percent of the cropped area was in Punjab, followed by perhaps 20 percent in Sindh, less than 10 percent in the North-West Frontier Province, and only 1 percent in Baluchistan. Since independence, the amount of cultivated land has increased by more than one-third. This expansion is largely the result of improvements in the irrigation system that makes water available to additional plots. Substantial amounts of farmland have been lost to urbanization and waterlogging, but losses are more than compensated for by additions of new land. In the early 1990s, more irrigation projects were needed to increase the area of cultivated land. The scant rainfall over most of the country makes about 80 percent of cropping dependent on irrigation. Fewer than 4 million hectares of land, largely in northern Punjab and the North-West Frontier Province, are totally dependent on rainfall. An additional 2 million hectares of land are under no irrigated cropping, such as plantings on floodplains as the water recedes. No irrigated farming generally gives low yields, and although the technology exists to boost production substantially, it is expensive to use and not always readily available.
In the early 1990s, irrigation from the Indus River and its tributaries constituted the world's largest contiguous irrigation system, capable of watering over 16 million hectares. The system includes three major storage reservoirs and numerous barrages, headwork’s, canals, and distribution channels. The total length of the canal system exceeds 58,000kilometers; there are an additional 1.6 million kilometers of farm and field ditches. Partition placed portions of the Indus River and its tributaries under India's control, leading to prolonged disputes between India and Pakistan over the use of Indus waters. After nine years of negotiations and technical studies, the issue was resolved by the Indus Waters Treaty of 1960. After a ten-year transitional period, the treaty awarded India use of the waters of the main eastern tributaries in its territory--the Ravi, Beas, and Sutlej rivers. Pakistan received use of the waters of the Indus River and its western tributaries, the Jhelum and Chenab rivers. After the treaty was signed, Pakistan began an extensive and rapid irrigation construction program, partly financed by the Indus Basin Development Fund of...