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Watershed Development in India

Watershed Development in India


  • Watershed is not simply the hydrological unit but also socio-political-ecological entity which plays crucial role in determining food, social, and economical security and provides life support services to rural people.
  • A watershed is a drainage area on earth’s surface from which runoff resulting from rainfall flowing from a single point to a larger stream, river, lake or the ocean.
  • It is a land surface (body of the soil) bounded by a divide contributing run-off to a common point. A positive water accretion to its upper boundary is in the form of precipitation and a negative accretion is in the form of evaporation.
  • Watershed management involves management of land surface and vegetation so as to conserve and utilize water that falls on the watershed, and to conserve the soil for immediate and long term benefits to the rural farmers, community and society.
  • Management of natural resources at watershed scale produces multiple benefits in terms of increasing food production, improving livelihoods, protecting environment, addressing gender and equity issues along with biodiversity concerns.

What is a Watershed?

  • A watershed, also called a drainage basin or catchment area, is defined as an area in which all water flowing into it goes to a common outlet.
  • In a generalized way, watershed is defined as a body of soil with definite boundaries around it, above it and below it.
  • People and livestock and the integral part of watershed and their activities affect the productive status of watersheds and vice versa.

History of Watershed Development Program in India

  • About 60 per cent of total arable land (142 million ha) in India is rain-fed, characterized by low productivity, low income, low employment with high incidence of poverty and a bulk of fragile and marginal land.
  • Watershed development projects in the country has been sponsored and implemented by Government of India from early 1970s onwards. The journey through the evolution of watershed approach evolved in India.
  • Various watershed development programs like Drought Prone Area program (DPAP), Desert Development Program (DDP), River Valley Project (RVP), and National Watershed Development Project for Rain-fed Areas (NWDPRA) and Integrated Wasteland Development Program (IWDP) were launched subsequently in various hydro-ecological regions; those were consistently being affected by water stress and draught like situations.

Major Objectives Of The Watershed Management Program

  • Conservation, up-gradation and utilization of natural endowments such as land, water, plant, animal and human resources in a harmonious and integrated manner with low-cost, simple, effective and replicable technology.
  • Employment generation.
  • Reduction of inequalities between irrigated and rain-fed areas and poverty alleviation.
  • Reduction of organic, inorganic and soil pollution.
  • Provision for adequate supply of water for domestic, industrial and agricultural needs.
  • Control of floods through small constructed reservoirs and other water impounding structures.   (Watershed Development in India)

Components of Watershed Management:

Entry Point Activity (EPA):

  • Entry Point Activity is the first formal project intervention which is undertaken after the transect walk, selection and finalization of the watershed. It is highly recommended to use knowledge-based entry point activity to build the rapport with the community.
  • Direct cash-based EPA must be avoided as such activities give a wrong signal to the community at the beginning for various interventions. Details of the knowledge based EPA to build rapport with the community ensuring tangible economic benefits to the community members are described here.

Land and Water Conservation Practices:

  • Soil and water conservation practices are the primary step of watershed management program.
  • Conservation practices can be divided into two main categories:
    • In-situ and
    • Ex-situ management.
  • Land and water conservation practices, those made within agricultural field like construction of contour bunds, graded bunds field bunds, terraces building broad bed and furrow practice and other soil-moisture conservation practices, are known as in-situ management. These practices protect land degradation, improve soil health, and increase soil-moisture availability and groundwater recharge.
  • Moreover, construction of check dam, farm pond, gully control structures, pits excavation across the stream channel is known as ex-situ management. Ex-situ watershed management practices reduce peak discharge in order to reclaim gully formation and harvest substantial amount of run-off, which increases groundwater recharge and irrigation potential in watersheds.

Integrated Pest and Nutrient Management:

  • Water only cannot increase crop productivity to its potential level without other interventions. A balanced nutrient diet along with adequate moisture availability and pest and disease free environment can turn agricultural production several folds higher compared to unmanaged land.
  • Integrated nutrient management (INM) involves the integral use of organic manure, crop straw, and other plant and tree biomass material along with little application of chemical fertilizer (both macro- and micro- nutrients).
  • Integrated pest management (IPM) involves use of different crop pest control practices like cultural, biological and chemical methods in a combined and compatible way to suppress pest infestations. Thus, the main goals of INM and IPM are to maintain soil fertility, manage pest and the environment so as to balance costs, benefits, public health, and environmental quality.

Crop Diversification and Intensification:

  • The crop diversification refers to bringing about a desirable change in the existing cropping patterns towards a more balanced cropping system to reduce the risk of crop failure; and crop intensification is the increasing cropping intensity and production to meet the ever increasing demand for food in a given landscape.
  • Watershed management puts emphasis on crop diversification and intensification through the use of advanced technologies, especially good variety of seeds, balanced fertilizer application and by providing supplemental irrigation.

Use of Multiple Resources:

  • Farmers those solely dependent on agriculture, hold high uncertainty and risk of failure due to various extreme events, pest and disease attack, and market shocks. Therefore, integration of agriculture (on-farm) and non-agriculture (off-farm) activities is required at various scales for generating consistent source of income and support for their livelihood.
  • For example, agriculture, livestock production and dairy farming, together can make more resilient and sustainable system compared to adopting agriculture practice alone. Product or by-product of one system could be utilized for other and vice-versa.
  • In this example, biomass production (crop straw) after crop harvesting could be utilized for livestock feeding and manure obtained from livestock could be applied in field to maintain soil fertility. It includes horticulture plantation, aquaculture, and animal husbandry at indivisible farm, household or community scale.

Capacity Building:

  • Watershed development requires multiple interventions that jointly enhance the resource base and livelihoods of the rural people. This requires capacity building of all the stakeholders from farmer to policy makers.    (Watershed Development in India)
  • Capacity building is a process to strengthen the abilities of people to make effective and efficient use of resources in order to achieve their own goals on a sustained basis. Unawareness and ignorance of the stakeholders about the objectives, approaches, and activities are the reasons that affect the performance of the watersheds.
  • Capacity building program focuses on construction of low cost soil and water conservation methods, production and use of bio-fertilizers and bio-pesticides, income generating activities, livestock based activities, waste land development, market linkage for primary stakeholders.
  • Clear understanding of strategic planning, monitoring and evaluation mechanism and other expertise in field of science and management is essential for government official and policy markers. The stakeholders should be aware about the importance of various activities, their benefits in terms of economics, social and environmental factors.
  • Therefore, organizing various training at different scales is important for watershed development. Besides, there are some other components needs to the considered like, livestock management, afforestation, rural energy management, development of community skills and resources etc.

Criteria for Selection of Watershed:

The basic criteria for selection of watersheds are:

  • Magnitude of the problem
  • Future of addressing the problem
  • Capacity/potentiality for overall development
  • Availability of desired technology
  • Acceptability and participation of the rural people
  • Availability of infrastructural facilities

Importance Of Watershed | Watershed Development in India

  • It recharges groundwater table.
  • Restores water for drinking and other human proposes
  • Protects bio-diversity of a region, it managed properly can restore biodiversity
  • Restores soil Fertility and helps in soil conservation
  • Helps fight climate change, and promotes sustainable agriculture.

About PMKSY | Watershed Development in India

  • Objective of the PMKSY is to achieve convergence of investments in irrigation at the field level, expand cultivable area under assured irrigation (Har Khet ko pani).
  • Improve on-farm water use efficiency to reduce wastage of water, enhance the adoption of precision-irrigation and other water saving technologies (More crop per drop).
  • Enhance recharge of aquifers and introduce sustainable water conservation practices by exploring the feasibility of reusing treated municipal based water for peri-urban agriculture and attract greater private investment in precision irrigation system. (Watershed Development in India)


Environment & Biodiversity

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