Soil conservation planning on watershed basis
Watershed development activity was taken up in the country prior to independence in the state of Maharashtra (then Bombay state) as a scarcity relief work during drought years in which contour binding programme for conservation of moisture and control of soil erosion was mostly undertaken, After independence, during the second five-year plan, soil conservation research, demonstration and training centers were established in different agroecological zones.
A watershed is a geo-hydrological unit, which drains into common point. The watershed approach is a project based ridge to valley approach for in situ soil and water conservation, forestation etc. Unit of development will be a watershed area of about 500 hectares each in watershed development projects. However, the actual area of a project may vary keeping in view the geographical location, the size of village etc. The thematic maps generated from satellite data for different themes such as land use/land cover, hydro geo morphology, soils etc. may be used for selection of a watershed area.
The Watershed Development Programme is the basic need for integrated development and management of the land and water resources which provide life support for rural communities. Thus the prospects for agriculture in the dry land areas are severely constrained by the specific feature of their natural resource endowments and the changed context. In a situation of low pressure on resources, viability was possible through traditional land cultivation practices. Watershed Development Programme ensures supply of water to every field, removes hunger and poverty from poor areas, provide green cover over denuded areas, bring in more rains and improve the environment. Watershed Development Programme is also described as a programme that holds the key to solve problems of employment, economy, ecology, export and equity.
Activities for Watershed Development A meeting of the Gram Sabha/Ward Sabha shall be convened for preparation of the Action Plan/Watershed Treatment Plan, on the basis of the information generated from the benchmark survey of the watershed areas and detailed Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) exercises. After general discussion, the Gram Panchayat will prepare a detailed Action plan/Treatment Plan for integrated development of the watershed area under the guidance of the Watershed Development team and submit the same to the Project Implementation Agency (PIA). The Watershed Development Team should utilize various thematic maps relating to land and water resources development in the preparation and finalization of the Action plan/Watershed Treatment Plan. This Action Plan shall necessarily mention the clear demarcation of the watershed with specific details ofsurvey numbers, ownership details and a map depicting the location of proposed work/activities. The Project Implementation Agency (PIA), after careful scmtiny, shall submit the Action Plan for Watershed Development for approval of the Zilla Parishad or District Rural Development Agency. The approved plan shall be the basis for release of funds, monitoring, review, evaluation etc. by the Zilla Parishad/District Rural Development Agency, State Government and Central Government. The Action Plan/Watershed Treatment Plan should be prepared for all the arable and nonarable land including degraded forestlands, government and community lands and private lands. The items, inter-alia, which can be included in the Action plan/Watershed Treatment Plan, are:
- Development ofsmall water harvesting structures such as low-cost farm ponds, nalla bunds, check-dams, percolation tanks and other ground water recharge measures.
- Renovation and augmentation of water sources, desolation of village tanks for drinking water/irrigation/fisheries development etc.
- Afforestation including block plantations, agro-forestry and horticultural development, shelterbelt plantations, sand dune stabilization etc.
- Land development including in-situ soil and moisture conservation measures like contour and graded bunds fortified by plantation, bench terracing in hilly terrain, nursery rising for fodder, timber, fuel wood, horticulture and non-timber forest product species.
- Repair, restoration and up-gradation of existing common property assets and structures in the watershed to obtain optimum & sustained benefits from previous public investments.
National Watershed Development Project for Rainfed Areas (NWDPRA)
During the Sixth Five-year Plan the department of Agriculture and cooperation launched a pilot project for propagation of water conservation and harvesting in rainfed areas (in 19 watersheds) located in 15 states. The main objectives were water harvesting and water conservation. Besides, the Ministry of Rural Development selected 23 watersheds in drought prone areas for soil and water conservation. In 1983-84 two World Bank aided projects were started in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra and Garhwal region of Uttar Pradesh. These projects showed the potentials of vegetative conservation measures to support biomass production. Based on these experiences, the National Watershed Development Project for Rainfed Areas (NWDPRA) was launched during the Seventh Five-year plan in 99 selected districts of the country.
Integrated Wastelands Development Programme (IWDP)
Integrated Wasteland Development Programme (IWDP), a centrally sponsored programme, has been under implementation since 1989-90, and was transferred to the erstwhile department of Wasteland Development (now Department of Land Resources) along with the National Wasteland Development Board in July, 1992, From 1st April 1995, the programme is being implemented through watershed approach under the common guidelines for Watershed Development. The development of wastelands and degraded lands under the programme is expected to promote the generation of employment in the rural areas besides enhancing the participation of people at all stages leading to sustainable development ofland and equitable sharing of the benefits.
Watershed Development Projects under Employment Assurance Scheme (EAS)
As per old guidelines of Employment Assurance Scheme (EAS), 50 Per cent of the funds released under Drought prone Area programme and Desert Development Programme and upto 40 Per cent of the funds released under Employment Assurance programme were supposed to be spent on watershed development projects and other related activities. Many Stats following it and a certain portion of the funds was spent on watershed development projects. These states have, in the meanwhile, created a liability for completion of watershed development projects under Employment Assurance. The total area taken up under Employment Assurance prior to 31.3.99 for completion of Watershed Development Projects comes to 63.50 lakh hectares for which central share funds will be released by the Department of Land Resource.