Watershed Management: Slogan or Solution?

It's all about three things - soil water and vegetation

SHEIKH MODASIR JEELANI

The rain-fed agriculture contributes 58 per cent to world’s food basket from 80 percent agriculture lands. As a consequence of global population increase, water for food production is becoming an increasingly scarce resource, and the situation is further aggravated by climate change. The rain-fed areas are the hotspots of poverty, malnutrition, food insecurity, prone to severe land degradation, water security and poor social and institutional infrastructure. Watershed development program is, therefore, considered as an effective tool for addressing many of these problems and recognized as potential engine for agriculture growth and development in fragile and marginal rain-fed areas. 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.
“Watershed management is a concept which recognizes the judicious management of three basic resources of soil water and vegetation, on watershed basis, for achieving particular objective for the wellbeing of the people”. It includes treatment of the land most suitable, biological as well as engineering measures. Hydrologically, watershed is an area from which the runoff flows to a common point on the drainage system. Every stream, tributary, or river has an associated watershed, and small watersheds aggregate together to become larger watersheds. The criteria for selecting watershed size depends on the objectives of the development and terrain slope. A large watershed can be managed in plain valley areas or where forest or pasture development is the main objective. In hilly areas as is the case with our Kashmir Valley or where intensive agriculture development is planned, the size of watershed relatively preferred is small.

INTEGRATED WATERSHED MANAGEMENT PROGRAMME (IWMP)
Watershed is defined as a hydro-geological unit of area from which the rainwater drains through a single outlet. Watershed development refers to the conservation, regeneration and judicious use of all the natural resources (like land, water, plants, animals) by human beings. Watershed Management brings about the best possible balance between natural resources on the one side and human beings on the other. Human beings and the ecology are interdependent. The changes in the environment directly affect the lives of the people depending on it. A degraded environment means a degraded quality of life of the people. This degradation can be tackled effectively through the holistic development of the watershed. A watershed provides a natural geo-hydrological unit for planning any developmental initiative. The approach would be treatment from “ridge to valley”. Watersheds exist naturally however due to the human intervention for agricultural practices the changed ecology and management practices affect the equilibrium of the ecology. If watersheds are not properly managed then the natural resources are rapidly degraded and in course of time become unusable for the betterment of human use. For the maximum production of vegetation all the resources have to be managed efficiently and effectively as well. Efficient management of these resources is possible through well managed resources and effectively handled processes. IWMP emphasizes the watershed management as rational utilization of all the natural resources for the optimum production to fulfill the need with minimal degradation of natural resources such as land, water and environment.
 Participation of people is essential for the success of watershed programs since the watershed management is a process which aims to create a self-supporting system which is essential for sustainability. The concept of participatory watershed management emphasizes a multi-disciplinary and multi-institutional approach. Human resource development is essential since finally it is the people who have to manage their resources therefore their participation is the key to success of any integrated watershed management programme. The overall objective of IWMP in Kashmir is to empower the people with new techniques and methods of developing and managing watersheds for enhancing and sustaining crop productivity of the valley.

Objective of watershed management:
1. Production of food, fodder, fuel.
2. Pollution control
3. Over exploitation of resources should be minimized
4. Water storage, flood control, checking sedimentation.
5. Wild life preservation
6. Erosion control and prevention of soil, degradation and conservation of soil and water.
7. Employment generation through industrial development dairy fishery production.
8. Recharging of ground water to provide regular water supply for consumption and industry as well as irrigation.
9. Recreational facility.
The main objectives of the Integrated Watershed Management Programme (IWMP) are to restore the ecological balance by harnessing, conserving and developing degraded natural resources such as soil, vegetative cover and water.  The outcomes are prevention of soil run-off, regeneration of natural vegetation, rain water harvesting and recharging of the ground water table.  This enables multi-cropping and the introduction of diverse agro-based activities, which help to provide sustainable livelihoods to the people residing in the watershed area.  In addition, there is a Scheme of Technology Development, Extension and Training is also being implemented to promote development of cost effective and proven technologies to support watershed management.

BENEFITS OF IWMP
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 who are dependent on agriculture, totally, hold high uncertainty and risk of failure due to various extreme events, pest and disease attack, and market shocks. Therefore, integration of agriculture and non-agriculture activities are 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 the other and vice-versa. In this example, biomass production 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. Capacity building is a process to strengthen the abilities of people to make an 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 the 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 the field of science and management is essential for the policy makers. 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 are important for the watershed development.
(Sheikh Modasir Jeelani is District Level Technical Expert, IWMP District Ganderbal. He has written this article with support of Shabieer Ahmad Rather (District Level Technical Expert, IWMP District Srinagar)
sheikhmudasir@gmail.com

Lastupdate on : Wed, 24 Apr 2013 21:30:00 Makkah time
Lastupdate on : Wed, 24 Apr 2013 18:30:00 GMT
Lastupdate on : Thu, 25 Apr 2013 00:00:00 IST




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