The climate of Pakistan is characterized by hot summers and cold winters and lies in the arid zone. Due to scanty rainfall, different irrigation systems have been used for centuries to combat this aridity issue. The irrigation systems and their patterns vary from region to region due to geographical, social, economic, and political factors [1
]. Before the Persian wheel method, irrigation was inefficient in south Asia. The use of the Persian Wheel for irrigation has been practiced since the seventh century (A.D.) in South Asia. Canals and Persian wheels or dug wells are the traditional and the very first methods of irrigation in South Asia. Canals have been constructed in the plain landscape with substantial public investments [5
], and wells have been dug by individual farmers in undulating topography.
Dug wells draw water from a natural or artificial aquifer that is either near sand dams or around ponds but not located inside a riverbed. It can include wells far from a river or wells receiving water from shallow aquifers hydraulically connected to the river. The traditional method of obtaining groundwater in rural areas of the developing world is through hand-dug wells [7
]. With knowledge about the shallow water table, a hole is dug for water extraction using pumps or buckets. Owing to suitable geological conditions, dug wells provide a low-tech solution to the challenges of rural water supply and can provide a viable alternative to unhygienic, unprotected water sources [8
]. The depth and diameter are the main parameters to be considered during design, impacting the dug wells’ performance and efficiency. Dug wells are shallow wells, usually consisting of a depth of several meters or less than 15 m.
Throughout history, dug wells have been constructed by hand, especially before World War II [9
]. The rate of pumping of the wells changes according to the design of the dug wells, especially with the change in well penetration depth. It implies that in a given aquifer, the yield of the dug wells is less associated with the well-wetted perimeter compared to the hydraulic gradient between the well-water surfaces and surrounding groundwater [10
]. Hence, to receive the maximum yield from the dug wells, good penetration depth relating to aquifer characteristics in design parameters should be considered.
In South Asia, dug wells are again in practice with some modifications (GOI, 1962; NAS, 1974). At this time, the dug well has been deepened by digging the formation with the help of the rock drills. In Pakistan, over the last 25 years, dug wells have been improved by integrating different pumps. Such driven sources are diesel or electric, and inexpensive centrifugal or turbine pumps are installed around 1–2 m above the water level. These pumps are locally manufactured in Pakistan and many neighboring countries and are readily available. In the rainfed areas of Pakistan, people are still interested in dug wells. The main reason for using dug wells so far is inexpensive and easy construction, which does not require skilled labor and extensive work. Dug wells are the source of reliable, safe, and hygienic water and involve the transformation of crude holes in the ground into clean water sources [11
The dug wells in Pakistan, India, Sri Lanka, and Nepal contribute significantly to the rural development of arid areas in South Asia. In Pakistan, about 4600 dug wells have been established with the collaboration and support of ABAD to provide water facilities to rural communities to raise crop productivity. Many dug wells in small villages and towns of Pakistan are constructed and worked for a long time and are considered one of the interventions in the village development program. As reported by Dane in 1898, about 5864 Persian wheels are recorded only in the Swabi area of Pakistan. Most of these dug wells are located along the length of the Indus riverbank, where the water table is higher than the remaining areas [12
]. According to the progress report of the ABAD project [13
], it has been reviewed that the dug wells are the most promising interventions in the target areas. In Madya Pradesh, India, based on a research survey (NBARD, 1994), dug wells are considered one of the efficient interventions of the integrated rural development program, which helped the rural communities to improve their livelihoods. In Sri Lanka, the Agrowell program was targeted and aimed to support rural communities by promoting dug-well sustainability and development in intermediate and dry regions of the country. This project intended to give profitability to the cropping pattern through the sustainability of dug wells [14
With the development of more advanced and efficient technology for tube wells, dug wells that have been used for thousands of years are being replaced with tube wells [15
]. Such dug wells are no longer constructed due to associated contamination issues, and extraordinary human effort is involved in their construction. With time, old traditional dug wells have been replaced with bore wells.
Currently, the main limitations while using modified traditional Persian wheels or dug wells are high construction cost, maintenance, the fact that they are time-consuming, and low water yield capacity [16
]. The capacity of the Persian wheel is very low for lifting water from a deep aquifer. Back in time, the operation costs of wheels were minimal, but with time and more modifications, their operational costs are becoming high with low-performance capacity. The continued use of Persian wheels in rural areas is due to preconstructed Persian wheels, lack of technology, inherited traditions affiliated with an agro-pastoralist community (e.g., animals as a symbol of pride, competition), etc. Lately, it has been used in the form of sustainability rather than perseverance [19
]. The state of agriculture has been subsistence in rainfed areas of dug-wells practice. Dug wells play an essential role in the irrigation sustainability of the regions. With time, there has been a significant change in the agriculture and irrigation system through modernization and mechanization. Likewise, the traditional use of dug wells is being replaced with new, advanced electric- and diesel-operated generators rather than the use of animals as driving forces, and the agro-pastoralist community is also adapting to new technologies [22
]. Moreover, dug wells are the traditional and sustainable water source in rural areas of many developing countries, including Pakistan. Due to climate change, the quantity and quality of water in dug wells have changed over the last few decades in various regions of the world. For example, in Pakistan, many farmers from the Potohar region observe a decrease in water quality and quantity from dug wells. Based on the literature, an assessment of the water quality of dug wells in Indonesia, including the physical, chemical, and biological factors, or standards of water changes due to climate change, has found that water of dug wells is declared unfit for human use [24
]. Water quality and quantity must be tested to maintain the sustainability of dug wells because the dug-well water should not be used directly for drinking, laundry, bathing, and other domestic purposes [11
]. A bacteriological assessment of the water quality of dug wells in Bangladesh has declared that the drinking water from dug wells is likely to provide health risks.
Agriculture is the primary source of livelihood for most communities, which are usually dependent on rainwater in rainfed areas, e.g., the Potohar region of Pakistan. Dug wells have been the only water source for many areas of the Potohar region for ages. When water from rains is insufficient to support the crops’ productivity, these dug wells are the only ray of hope for these vulnerable farming communities. Due to erratic patterns and changing rainfall patterns, the productivity of the dug wells is declining. Due to technological advances, youngsters feel embarrassed and are reluctant to pull water using animals, including donkeys, through dug wells. Though still operational in some places, these are now considered old-fashioned and outdated options because pumping water through them is uneconomical. Earlier, farmers used them for irrigation of their crops and domestic needs, but now they have almost abandoned this system.
Previously, females used water from dug wells for domestic, animal, and vegetable production, but they have almost abandoned this activity as vegetables are available in every small town. Another aggravating factor is climate change [25
] (changing rainfall patterns, droughts, etc.), which has caused a lowering of groundwater, affecting recharge rate and yield, ultimately affecting farmers’ livelihood by decreasing farm productivity. Using this limited available water resource effectively and efficiently by integrating high-value off-season crops is a promising solution to these problems. This fragile but highly economically valued system got significantly less focus from public investment and researchers’ attention in order to modernize these systems. It is an inefficient system that has been prevalent for decades and demands an overall upgrade. Sustainability in subsistence agriculture practices is a rare phenomenon without the help of modern technologies [30
]. In Pakistan, water uplifting through the Persian wheel is quite an old method, which needs to be more advanced and economically feasible. So, it is essential to modernize this system to restore livelihood and enhance agriculture productivity on a sustainable basis of dug wells.
Much literature has documented dug wells’ potential, scope, and status in many regions, but there is a dearth of literature and knowledge available on the socio-economic significance of these dug wells and associated livelihoods. No such study has been documented showing the climate change impacts on dug wells associated with the livelihoods of farmers of the rainfed area of Pakistan. Databases regarding the availability of dug wells, resource utilization, and water table fluctuation, which is of prime importance for devising adaptation packages and rehabilitation measures for improving these wells, are not available. The current study focuses on discovering the factors affecting the farmers’ dug-well yields and associated livelihoods in the face of climate change in the Soan Basin (Potohar region) of Pakistan to devise a suite of viable technologies.
The present study was carried out under the HI-AWARE project to determine the dependence of the farming communities on the traditional dug-well/Persian wheel system for their livelihood. The most crucial objective of the study was to assess climate change impacts on the livelihoods of communities relying on dug wells, resource use, constraints, and opportunities to identify strategies for adaptive interventions and to inform national policymakers and public institutions about the variations in livelihoods across communities that depend on dug wells in order to develop adoption strategies and programs (solar water pumping, high efficiency irrigation system, and advanced agriculture methods). This study provided a basis for the Pakistan Agriculture Research Council to initiate a pilot of climate-smart interventions at selected dug wells for improving agricultural productivity and resilience. Regarding the effects of climate change on farmers’ livelihoods dependent on dug wells, the following factors were highly relevant:
What are these wells’ socio-economic significances in the selected study areas?
What is the behavior of the water table in the region?
What is the climate change impact on dug wells and associated livelihoods?
What adaptation and rehabilitation measures can be taken to improve these wells?
Therefore, a survey is conducted to the collect the perceptions of local farmers throughout the Soan River Basin of Pakistan. Conducting a survey to collect farmers’ perceptions in response to climate change impacting their livelihoods is important for several reasons:
Understanding farmers’ perspectives: Farmers are on the front lines of climate change, and their perceptions and experiences can provide important insights into the impacts of climate change on agriculture. By conducting a survey, we can better understand their perspectives on climate change, how they perceive its impacts on their livelihoods, and what measures they are taking to adapt to these changes.
Identifying vulnerabilities and adaptation strategies: Farmers are often the most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, such as changes in precipitation patterns, increased temperatures, and extreme weather events. By collecting data through a survey, we can identify the specific vulnerabilities faced by farmers and the adaptation strategies they are using to cope with these challenges.
Informing policy and decision making: The insights gained from a survey can be used to inform policy and decision making related to climate change adaptation in the agriculture sector. For example, policymakers can use survey data to identify the areas where farmers need the most support and to develop targeted interventions that address the specific challenges faced by farmers.
Tracking changes over time: By conducting a survey at regular intervals, we can track changes in farmers’ perceptions and adaptation strategies over time. This can help to identify trends and patterns and to evaluate the effectiveness of interventions and policies aimed at addressing the impacts of climate change on agriculture.
Overall, conducting a survey of farmers’ perceptions in response to climate change is an important tool for understanding the impacts of climate change on agriculture and developing effective strategies to support farmers in adapting to these changes. The results of this study will help policymakers and other stakeholders to reduce vulnerability of agricultural communities to the consequences of climate change by highlighting the socio-economic and sociocultural features of local residents in response to changing climate.
Climate change is a global issue that significantly impacts vulnerable communities, and people’s perceptions of climate change indicate that people are aware of this change around them. It mainly impacts the environment, agriculture, and water resources. The country is prone to climate change with increased periods of droughts and intensive rainfall events causing damage to agriculture and livestock. Likewise, the current study focused on assessing people’s perception of climate change and its impacts on water and agriculture, specifically dug wells in the Soan Basin of Pakistan. Results showed that 70% of respondents agreed about climate change in the Soan Basin of Pakistan, and 62% of farmers reported that climate change severely impacted their livelihood by affecting agriculture productivity and water availability. Ninety-two percent of potential adopters reported summer becoming hotter, 72% highlighted winters are becoming less cold, and 96% reported that average annual rainfall has decreased compared to 10 years before. About 72% of respondents indicated that available water in their dug wells decreased, and 80% of respondents explained that their crop yield had decreased compared to 10 years before. These decreases in agriculture productivity and increasing population have a significant impact on the deteriorating food security. By considering the food energy and water nexus, it is critical to think of sustainable ways of practicing agriculture with increased production and reduced water consumption.
The current study’s findings follow the findings of [36
] regarding people’s perception of climate change in the Soan Basin of Pakistan. Based on their analysis of the results, 97% percentage farmers observed an increase in average temperature (max. and min. temperature) in the Potohar region of Pakistan, 48% of farmers noticed an erratic pattern of rainfall, and 96% of framers observed water scarcity in the region due to climate change.
Climate change is impacting Asian countries, and European countries are equally vulnerable to it. The findings of the current study favor the findings of [37
], based on the people’s perception of climate change and its impacts not only on human beings but also on the environment, ecosystem, infrastructure, and water resources. While considering the impact of climate change on the irrigated area of Marlborough and Hawke’s Bay of New Zealand, findings of data survey analysis showed that winter temperature trends significantly increase at around 0.2–0.3 °C per decade. Farmers suggested that the region of New Zealand, where irrigation would be feasible, was also significantly more likely to receive more annual rainfall.
Global warming has not been uniform on Earth; many developed countries such as those in North America, Europe, and northern Asia face more global warming than other developing countries [38
]. The results of the current study are also comparable with the findings of many other national and international research studies [39
] regarding the impact of climate change on water resources and agriculture.
One of the alarming and major threats of climate change on the Earth’s surface is water scarcity across the world. Global warming causes disastrous impacts on the water cycle. Climate change is impacting many communities causing extreme water-related events in many watersheds. According to the UNFCC Climate, Action, and Support Trends 2019 report, water has been highlighted as one of the major vulnerable sources of climate change. The current study showed that 72% of respondents indicated that available water in their dug wells decreased with time due to climate change. The results of the decrease in water availability of dug wells coincide with the findings [36
Similarly, the erratic pattern of rainfall, extreme temperature, and water scarcity can impact the crop productivity of the region. This study highlighted that 80% of respondents agreed with the statement that climate change is causing the decline in crop productivity as compared to 10 years before in the region. According to (Bashir et al., 2018) research, 62% of farmers noticed a decline in crop productivity due to climate change in the Soan Basin region of Pakistan [37
Current study findings are also in line with the questionnaire-based survey of Borana in southern Ethiopia, which highlighted the negative impact of climate change on water resources, and agriculture overall, causing a decrease in livelihood and economic development [18
Climate Change Adaptation and Mitigation Strategies
When tackling climate change and its impacts, human beings apply two types of measures: adaptation and mitigation. Many adaptations and mitigation strategies can help society cope with climate change, but these two measures should be addressed simultaneously. Effective implementation depends on an integrated approach and link between mitigation and adaptation with societal objectives. The current study showed that 60% of respondents agree to adopt measures to cope with climate change in the Soan Basin of Pakistan. Eighty percent of them feel that adaptation of climate-smart interventions can enhance agriculture productivity, and 56% of farmers feel that if efficient water is used for agriculture, then it can strengthen agricultural sustainability. Many respondents agree to use highly efficient irrigation systems for efficient water management in agriculture. These findings correspond to the study [42
] based on their research, in which drip irrigation systems, rainwater harvesting, and responsive drip irrigation can help farmers efficiently use water in rainfed regions such as the Soan River Basin. Adapting efficient drip irrigation systems for agriculture can provide sustainability for agriculture and water resources [43
]. Likewise, using green and water infrastructure in society can mitigate the global warming issue. Solar water pumping systems can reduce the cost of electrification and diesel up to 100%. Cultivating off-season vegetables under tunnel farming through a high-efficiency irrigation system can double the yield productivity [4
It is essential to discuss the climate adaptation and mitigation measures along with climate risks. However, in developing nations (where dug wells are thought to be the most typical approach to extract ground water to be used in agricultural operations), understanding farmers’ opinions of climate change adaptation and mitigation is the key to adaptation strategies in the community). Qualitative context analysis in Austria suggests that climate adaptation interventions should be formed only if a farmer is willing to understand the effectiveness of such adaptation measures in the community. To assess the people’s perception of climate change and adaptation needs, a qualitative and quantitative questionnaire-based survey was carried out during the southwest monsoon season in India; the results revealed that the perceptions and the information gathered were the same as analyzed observed trends of climate data [50
]. People’s perception of climate variability (which includes heat, winter and summer temperature, reduced rainfall, and fewer floods) can be used to motivate people for some adaptations and mitigation measures, as an assessment of climate variability from the last 5 to 10 years in Bangladesh showed negative impacts in terms of agriculture, human lifestyle, and water resources of that region [24
]. Another questionnaire-based survey that observed climate change and people’s perception of climate change was based on four variables: income, politics, agriculture, and economy in Montana. Results showed that maximum agricultural stakeholders are concerned about climate change and perceived the negative trends and impacts of rainfall and temperature over the region over the last few years [46
]. Such types of analyses help policymakers, researchers, and engineers design climate adaptation interventions for specific areas accordingly.
Thus, it is a need of the hour to convince farmers/people and make them understand the importance of adopting mitigation strategies to cope with climate change. It is thus essential to understand farmers’ socio-ecological characters and demands while designing and adapting research programs to cope with climate change. The findings of our current study regarding climate change impacts on water sustainability, quality, and quantity of dug wells coincide with the results of [57
]. People in rural areas mainly rely on sustainable and conventional water sources, e.g., dug wells, tube wells, or springs. Therefore, efforts should be made to improve water sources for domestic needs.