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Thursday, 1 December 1960


Mr BEAZLEY (Fremantle) .- The measure before us, the Indus Basin Development Fund Agreement Bill, probably represents the end of one aspect of a dispute which could have been serious for India and for Pakistan, and for the world. It also represents a great constructive lead by the World Bank. When we speak of Pakistan, we speak of a country which is wholly dependent, in its western region, on the waters of the Indus Basin. So valuable is water in the territory that we now call Western Pakistan that, in the social history of the country, property in water evolved before property in land. If one studies the recent rainfall of Karachi, one can understand the importance of irrigation, so violent are its fluctuations. In succeeding years, the rainfall was 13.52 inches, 0.69 inches, 9.41 inches, 20.82 inches and 6.97 inches. Yet it is quite possible for 12 inches to fall in 24 hours in a deluge and much of this is lost in run-off.

The coming of partition between India and Pakistan made the problem of an agreement concerning the use of water acute, but it was not a new problem. We tend to think that every problem of the relationship between India and Pakistan has arisen since partition. But disputes on water rights were common before partition in British India. There were disputes between the States of what was called British India and the princely States. The duty of solving these disputes devolved on the Secretary of State for India from 1858 to 1919. After that, it became the responsibility of the Viceroy's Government. It was clearly, therefore, likely to be the subject of dispute after partition. David E. Lilienthal, of the American Atomic Energy Commission, has said that without irrigation water in Pakistan millions of acres would dry up in a week and tens of millions would starve. Sir John Russell, the world food expert, says at page 343 of his work " World Population and World Food Supplies " -

The partition of India not only disrupted trade relations between the various regions but, what was far worse, cut across the irrigation systems of the north. The River Sutlej till recently provided water for about 5,000,000 acres of some of the richest wheat and cotton growing land of the Pakistan Punjab. But before entering Pakistan it flows through East Punjab, which is in India.

He is writing in 1954 -

The Indian Government is now constructing works on its part of the river which enable it to divert waters into its own Punjab. . . . These works are causing great anxiety to the Pakistan Government who fear that much of their Punjab may be reduced to desert. ... It is impossible to irrigate much more than half of the cropland each year, and' there is only a small amount of double-cropping. In other words, about one acre of cropland is idle each year for every acre cultivated.

Of course, had the water been withdrawn into India as Pakistan feared, a crisis would have developed and the whole of the west of Pakistan might have become untenable. The good offices of the World Bank and of various Western powers were directed towards solving the dispute concerning water. The dispute was complicated with rival disputes concerning the possession of Kashmir, but although that problem has not been solved, the water problem has been. In June of this year, the Indian Ministry of Irrigation and Power issued the statement which is the basis of the bill that we are discussing to-night. It said that discussions in Delhi and Karachi had - resulted in. the formulation of certain general principles which would afford a basis on which it should be possible to move forward towards a settlement of the Indus basin waters question. The Government of Pakistan have conveyed to Mr. Black-

He is of the World Bank- their willingness to go forward on the basis of the system of works proposed by the Bank . . . The Bank has reached an agreement in principle with the Government of India on the amount of financial contribution to be made by India towards the cost of construction of these works . . . The transition period - i.e. the period after which India would be entitled to the exclusive use of the waters of the three Eastern rivers - would be approximately ten years.

The essence of the agreement between India and Pakistan was that the three eastern rivers of the Indus system - the Sutlej, the Beas and the Ravi - would be for the use of India and the three western rivers - the Indus, the Jhelum and the Chenab - would be for the use of Pakistan. That diplomatic problem having been solved, the next problem was one of finance. I feel that this is where we may well need an attack of modesty, because the Australian contribution towards this is about H per cent, of the total cost. The Australian contribution, as I hope to show later, in technical skill and advice may be very great indeed.

The friendly governments, as they are called in the correspondence relating to this transaction, contributing towards the total cost of the scheme of 1,000,000,000 dollars are Australia which is contributing £6,965,000 Australian, Canada which is contributing 22,100,000 Canadian dollars, West Germany which is contributing 126,000,000 Deutsche Marks, New Zealand which is contributing £1,000,000 New Zealand, the United Kingdom which is contributing 177,000,000 dollars in grants and the United States which is contributing 103,000,000 dollars in loans and the equivalent of 235,000,000 dollars in the local currency of India and Pakistan.


Mr Osborne - The Prime Minister converted those sums into the Australian equivalent.


Mr BEAZLEY - Yes, but this is the agreement. Actually, as far as Pakistan is concerned, one of the great virtues of the agreement, since the actual physical equipment for the scheme is being drawn from many different quarters, is that it puts into the hands of that country various foreign currencies.

Pakistan irrigation, as I mentioned at the beginning, was quite vital. In Sind, for instance, in the North-West Punjab, in Bahawalpur in North-West Province, irrigation to bring some 6,000,000 acres into cultivation was in existence before this scheme. But when these irrigation schemes have been developed in the past there have been two factors of waste. One is that the channels are not lined with concrete and a good deal of water soaks away into the channels. The second is that the longing for water on the part of the cultivators led to excessive use of water, which in turn led to waterlogging and to salting. In fact, in one State, on the Sukkur barrage - which had been one of the big barrages, the Lloyd barrage, started by the British in the 'thirties - waterlogging began within a few months of its completion and finally a valuable area 23 miles long and half a mile wide was abandoned, with the salt working up to the surface. As the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) mentioned, that is perhaps a field where Australia may have some valuable advice and technical expertise to contribute to Pakistan. Already Australia and New Zealand have had a stake in this whole problem, long before this present agreement but in such irrigated areas as already existed. For instance, Australia and New Zealand had contributed large numbers of livestock, of high quality, from an animal development farm which the two countries maintained under the Colombo Plan. The lifting of the level of stock in Pakistan, both as to numbers and as to quality, is vitally important, because the most serious deficiency in diet in both India and Pakistan is a deficiency of protein. If we can show how to overcome this deficiency by the use of milk and milk products, and meat itself, we shall have contributed very greatly towards supplying the needs of West Pakistan. First-class livestock that have been bred in Australia and New Zealand represent a very significant contribution, indeed.

We should remember that there had been a struggle over irrigation for a long time before this scheme was mooted. The Lloyd barrage at Sukkur was amongst the largest irrigation dams in the world, and it was completed as long ago as 1932. Since that time, the wheat area served by the dam has more than doubled, and the cotton area has more than trebled. It is not expected, under the scheme we are now considering, that full development will be reached until 1963. The total area of that development will be 5,500,000 acres, which is equal to the total area of irrigated land in Egypt. The struggle for irrigation is not beginning with this Indus scheme; rather is it drawing to its completion with the scheme. In Sind, there are 30,000,000 acres of land, and only 6,000,000 acres are under cultivation.

The honorable member for Parkes mentioned a conversation he had had with me, in which I had told him about Lord Boyd-Orr, who was at one stage the leader of the Food and Agricultural Organization, and who is a world authority on nutrition and on agricultural practices as they affect nutrition. Lord Boyd-Orr invited me to lunch in the House of Commons diningroom simply because he had heard that I came from Western Australia, and he wanted to tell me that in Pakistan the ablest men he had working were Australian advisers, and especially those from Western Australia, because they had learned so much about the techniques of dry farming, which it was necessary to understand fully in the non-irrigable area of Pakistan.

There is, however, another aspect of the problem in this area which is to be irrigated that needs special attention. Pakistan at the present time produces 850 lb. of rice per acre, but in Australia we produce 121 bushels of rice per acre. Each bushel of rice weighs 42 lb., so that Australia produces 5,082 lb. per acre, compared with Pakistan's production of 850 lb. If the yield per acre in Pakistan could be brought to the Australian standard, the 5,500,000 acres that are to be cultivated would become the equivalent of 33,000,000 acres at Pakistan's present rate of production. It would represent a sixfold increase. If every existing acre of cultivated land in Pakistan could be brought up to Australian production standards, the amount of rice grown in that country would be six times the amount at present being produced.


Mr Haylen - You are using the Murrumbidgee Irrigation Area figures, are you?


Mr BEAZLEY - Yes. Quite dose comparisons can be made between conditions in Australia and Pakistan in certain respects. The study by Norton Ginsburg, " The Pattern of Asia ", and the work by Sir John Russell, "World Population and World Food Supplies", draw parallels between the salting up in the Murray valley and the salting up in Pakistan due to excessive use by unskilled farmers of the waters made available by the irrigation schemes. Norton Ginsburg, referring to Pakistan, wrote -

Other problems beset farmers in the Punjab. The size of holdings has decreased because of the sub-division of land in each successive generation. Tenancy has resulted from the loss of land through indebtedness to moneylenders.

I suppose if there is anything that western farmers ought to be grateful for, it is for the circumstance that western feudalism followed primogeniture and we developed a banking system. Where every son inherited and sub-divided the land inefficiency of cultivation followed and, of course, when moneylenders have operated the farmers have, within a couple of generations, been hopelessly in debt. To return to the publication of Norton Ginsburg -

The most serious problem in the irrigated land of the Punjab, however, is rapid deterioration of soil from salt accumulation due to excessive seepage from unlined canals, and from the sandy loam soils typical of the cultivated tracts. The water table, which was 25 to 80 feet deep before irrigation of the inter-fluves, has risen. Actually in some spots the soil is waterlogged and salts have encrusted the surface, making the land unfit for crops.

How close a parallel that is to what has happened in places in Australia. Sir John Russell, in speaking of the Murray valley area in the work I previously mentioned, said -

As commonly happens in irrigation systems, some waterlogging of the land has resulted from excessive or careless watering or from seepage from the canals. This in places has caused salt to rise to the surface, with destructive effects.

Just as Australia has contributed expertise in wheat farming and in the development of the cattle industry in Pakistan, it could, I think, give assistance to Pakistan by teaching farmers in that country the techniques which have given us such a high yield of rice per acre, as well as the techniques for coping with waterlogging and salting.

I should say two things about this scheme, in view of what was said by the honorable member on the government side who spoke before the suspension of the sitting. The first is this: I take it that we are not in this scheme to compete with anybody, or to pretend that we are more generous than somebody else, or to use our participation as a means of gaining influence or control over men's minds, or to look for gratitude. There is only one motive that is worth while behind our participation in this scheme; that is that we desire the survival of the Pakistani people because they are human beings, irrespective of whether they will, in the future, agree with our points of view.

The second thing I would like to say about this measure is this: While we have something to teach, we also have something to learn from people who cultivate in the way that Pakistanis do. We often think of their agriculture as primitive, but in fact when there have been famines in Pakistan and the people have had to rely on imported grains, they have been unable to live on them, although they are quite able to live on their own grains. Very often we are told that this is due to the fact that their grains are grown only with the aid of natural fertilizers, and that they have a very high protein content and therefore become a real food, whereas the grains they have had to import in famine periods have been grown with artificial fertilizers and do not always have the same high protein content or the nutritive value. It is important, I think, for us in Australia to realize that the important feature of the grain we export is its nutritional value. We have developed, in the wool industry, the concept that what we are exporting is a quality material which will make a quality cloth. We do not have there the absurd concept of an f.a.q - a fair average quality - as we have in the case of wheat. We do not throw all our wool together regardless of whether one man might evolve a high quality of wool in his breeding of sheep while somebody else has a poor quality, thus destroying the incentive to produce a superior quality. But we have done that in the case of wheat. Very often we think we have achieved something if we export a certain weight of wheat, and we do not ask whether we are exporting that weight of nutrition.

This country has many opportunities to assist some of these other countries with some of the commodities which we waste, because to a considerable extent in the past we have wasted the highest protein-value substance that exists. I am speaking of dried, skimmed milk powder which has 36 units of protein compared with 19 units in first-class steak. I do not want to get on to this subject, because it is not relevant, except to say that in all forms of assistance to these people what is most urgently needed is both the protein that they can produce themselves and that which we can export to them. The late Sir Ian Clunies Ross, formerly head of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, is quoted by Sir John Russell, when speaking of Australia, as saying this -

The skimmed milk from butter making is at present fed to pigs, which, however, convert only 8 or 9 per cent, of its protein into human food. If, instead, it was evaporated, it would furnish more first-class protein than is contained in all Australia's production of beef and mutton.

I understand there is a developing powdered milk industry in this country; and that can become one way in which protein can be exported from this country in a form which does not run up against religious convictions or any other form of custom in India or Pakistan in the same way as protein in the form of beef in India or pork in

Pakistan would. So I think that if this measure is going to be part of a total attempt to assist the people of Pakistan in solving not merely the agricultural problem of water supply - not merely to assist them in irrigation - but also to assist them to lift the whole standard of nutrition in that area, it will be a masterstroke by this country, more than self-interest, although it would be a masterstroke of enlightened self-interest. It would be a masterstroke if the motive underlying it were a care which would lead to a continuing policy that we value these people as people and desire their survival on this planet and desire to see them survive on this planet with constantly rising living standards.







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