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Rengasamy- Madurai Institute of Social Sciences – Watershed Planning & Development


Out of a total geographical area of 329 million hectares, 175 million hectares of land in India
has been classified as "degraded". Most of this
area is rain fed and prone to recurring drought.
Further, about 65% of the net sown area in India
falls into the category of "rain fed". The purpose
of watershed development is to rehabilitate and
conserve the land and water resources in these
areas for food and livelihood security.

Watershed development has become the main

intervention in natural resource management in
India. Watershed development programs not
only protect and conserve the environment, but
also contribute to livelihood security. Watershed
development programs in the country are funded
largely by the government, which has made
substantial budgetary provisions for the
rehabilitation and development of micro-
watersheds. Programs are funded also by international organizations such as World Bank,
DANIDA, DFID, SIDA, SDC, IFAD and the Indo-German Watershed Program.
What is a watershed?
Water Shed: A line separating two river basins---drainage or a catchment area
Water Shed: Land that stores rain water or snow water in its soil and eventually gives up this water to form
a river or a stream is called water shed. Watershed is also Known as a drainage basin
A watershed is an area of land that drains to a common waterway, such as a stream, lake, estuary, wetland,
or, ultimately, the ocean.
A watershed is all the land and water area which contributes runoff to a common point. The watershed
above any point on a defined drainage channel is therefore all the land and water areas which drain through
that point. Water Shed: Region OF LAND that contributes water to a stream, lake or other body of water
A watershed refers to the geographical area from where the water comes, with all its existing social,
economic and physiological characteristcs.
A watershed is all the land and water area which contributes runoff to a common point. The watershed
above any point on a defined drainage channel is therefore all the land and water areas which drain through
that point.
What is a watershed approach?
A watershed approach is a flexible framework for managing water resource quality and quantity within
specified drainage areas, or watersheds.
What is a watershed plan?
A watershed plan is a document that results from the watershed planning process and provides assessment
and management information for a geographically defined watershed, including the analyses, actions,
participants, and resources related to development and implementation of the plan. These plans provide a
road map to help you identify the problems, set goals, and implement solutions in your watershed.
Watershed management
Watershed management is the participatory process of guiding and organizing land use and use of other
resources in a watershed for sustainable provision of desired goods and services to the people without
adversely affecting soil and water resources.
Embedded in this concept is the recognition of the interrelationships among land use, soil and water, the

S.Rengasamy- Madurai Institute of Social Sciences – Watershed Planning & Development

Knowledge about the hydrological cycle is necessary for watershed development

Size of the watershed

Watershed may be of any size
Ø A small hill that yield a stream
Ø Raised portion of land that extends
many miles and supplies a river
Ø Large drainage basin extends to
thousands of miles.

Evolution of “Watershed Plus”

In the past, watershed development programs in India mainly concentrated on the technical
aspects of soil and water conservation. These programs often failed to achieve their objectives, or
were not sustained, because the intended beneficiaries of these programs were not involved. In
fact, watershed projects sometimes increased disparities between small and big farmers, because
technical inputs were "hijacked" by the large farmers who were the dominant groups in the village
Experience and learning from the field has brought into focus various issues and dimensions of
watershed development, which had not been recognized before. Several local initiatives by non-
government organizations (NGOs) highlighted the need for community participation, and the
government responded by integrating this learning into what is now referred to as the “Common
Guidelines for Watershed Development” of the Ministry of Rural Development. These guidelines
came into effect in 1995.
With the understanding that community involvement was the pre-requisite for the successful
implementation of the watershed development program came the concept of “watershed plus”,
which implies that watershed development goes beyond soil and water conservation to
encompass social and equity aspects as well. It also emphasizes that watershed development is
an integrated, inter-sectoral program whose success depends on how “integrated” the approach
is in its implementation.

Vegetative cover in the WS area—soaks rain water, arrest rapid runoff of surface water—
soak down and trickle down to the water table.

S.Rengasamy- Madurai Institute of Social Sciences – Watershed Planning & Development

The term Watershed refers to an area which has a ridge line on three sides and whose surplus
run off is drained out from a drainage point. Big watersheds separate drainage basins.
Watersheds can be as small as 50 hectares in hilly areas and as large as 5000 to10000
hectares or even more elsewhere. Sometimes the catchment area of a small seasonal stream
could also be considered as a watershed or sub watershed. The size of the watershed to be
choosen for land development / soil conservation depends upon the objectives of the land
development planning to be attempted in a particular water shed.

River valley in India

Damodar River (541 Km-336 Miles) flows through Bihar and West Bengal. It is notorious
and known for its erratic character—for the last 150 years—floods occurred more than 17

All rivers start at the highest point in an area. As the river flows downstream, it gains more water from other
streams, rivers, springs, added rainfall, and other water sources.
What is a river?
A river is fresh water flowing across the surface of the land, usually to the sea. It flows in a channel. The
bottom of the channel is called the bed and the sides of the channel are called the banks.
River: A large stream of water flowing over the land. A river is any natural stream of fresh water, which
flows, in a well-defined channel.
River Basin: A whole region drained by a river with its tributaries
Where do rivers begin and end?
Rivers begin in mountains or hills, where rain water or melting snow collects and forms tiny streams called
gullies. Gullies either grow larger when they collect more water and become streams themselves or meet
streams and add to the water already in the stream.
How are rivers formed?
When one stream meets another and they merge together, the smaller stream is known as a tributary. It takes
many tributary streams to form a river.
What do Rivers provide?
Most settlements were built along major rivers. Rivers provide us with food, energy, recreation,
transportation routes, and of course water for irrigation and for drinking.
Why are rivers important?
Rivers carry water and nutrients to areas all around the earth. They play a very important part in the water
cycle, acting as drainage channels for surface water. Rivers drain nearly 75% of the earth's land surface.
Rivers provide a habitat and food for many of the earth's organisms; their powerful forces create majestic
Rivers provide travel routes for exploration, commerce and recreation.
River valleys and plains provide fertile soils. Farmers in dry regions irrigate their cropland using water
carried by irrigation ditches from nearby rivers.
Rivers are an important energy source. During the early industrial era, mills, shops, and factories were built
near fast-flowing rivers where water could be used to power machines. Today steep rivers are still used to
power hydroelectric plants and their water turbines.
Rivers Glossary
Tributary ;a stream flowing into or joining a larger stream
Distributaries’ ;any of the numerous stream branches into which a river divides where it reaches its delta
Upstream ;moves toward headwater (up the regional slope of erosion)
Downstream ;moves toward mouth of river (delta)
Delta ;a large, roughly triangular body of sediment deposited at the mouth of a River Meander

times—inundating villages up to 6-7 feet –caused heavy damage –malarial fever—disturbed

by this WB Government appointed Damodar Flood Enquiry Committee—the committee

S.Rengasamy- Madurai Institute of Social Sciences – Watershed Planning & Development

submitted its report in 1945—they secured the services of Voorden, senior engineer of TVA
(Tennessee Valley Authority).
Voordun suggested to set up a separate authority to Where is the water
manage the river basin—based on this Damodar
Valley Corporation Act was passed in 1948.

Functions of the RV Corporation

Objectives of River Valley Planning
1. Promotion and operation of schemes for
irrigation water supply and drainage.
2. Generation , transmission and distribution of
electrical energy
3. Flood control.
4. Promotion and control of navigation in the
river and its tributaries and channels.
5. Promotion of afforestation and control of soil
6. Promotion of public health, agricultural,
industrial, economic and general well being of
the river valley and its area of operation.

**For more details see Mahesh Chand & Puri—

Chapter.10. Experiments in interstate planning

Hierarchy of Water shed /River valley

Stream water shed form a convenient areal unit for planning. A large river basin like Cauvery
can be broken in to hierarchic system of smaller basins. Each smaller basin exactly fits within
the next large unit.
Finger tip tributaries Order 1
Stracher’s system of Watershed Order
Junction of two first
Order of the watersheds can be designated. order tributaries Order 2
Stracher’s system designates the fingertip
tributaries as order 1.The channels formed
by the junction of two first order channels
designated as order 2.and the channels
formed by the junction of two second
Junction of two second
order channels are designated as order order channels Order 3
3.and so on.
Water shed is an area, which drains into a river. Hierarchies of watersheds are then hierarchy
of river.
The largest water shed is formed by third level tributary, within which the second and first
level watersheds fall.

S.Rengasamy- Madurai Institute of Social Sciences – Watershed Planning & Development

Watershed management includes

ü Capacity development and training (human resource development, community development,
institutional development)
ü Natural resources management (soil and land management, water and forest management, rural energy
ü Improving farming systems (crop management, pasture/fodder development, livestock management)
ü Sustainable rural livelihoods (farm and non-farm value addition activities)
ü Conflict management (e.g among social groups, between upstream and
downstream users)

Advantages of watersheds as units of planning:

Edaphic changes in soil and vegetation reflect location within the watershed, as the physical
features of a basin directly affect the hydrologic characteristics of the streams draining it.
Water sheds, therefore form the appropriate units for
intervention in flood control, navigation, hydroelectric
power generation, soil conservation, water,
management, crop planning etc. WS is an ideal aerial
unit for planned development of natural resources.
Ø Watersheds offer a complete eco systemic balance
between topography, rain fall, vegetation and
animal life.
Ø Watersheds contribute a spatial eco-system in
which the smallest watershed is originally linked to
largest watershed.
If the watershed resources are used without keeping this
Watershed management integrates
eco-systemic interaction in view, the system Various forms in which water is available (e.g.
is rendered unbalanced and several negative rainfall, rivers, lakes, groundwater) with forms of
forces do not allow the rebuilding of water storage and water harvesting
resources like soil ,vegetation etc. Competing water use sectors (agriculture,
households, industry, ecosystems and tourism)
Identification of watersheds for micro-level Relevant policy fields (agricultural policy, forest
policy, rural development, human development,
social policy)
Watersheds can be different sizes depending Watersheds with water catchments and river
upon the order of the stream. Eg. Cauvery basins
basin –within it there is Kabini basin.
The question is which size of the watershed should be used in integrated rural area planning?
• The optimum size of a micro watershed largely depends on the specific emphasis of the
development program.
• If the program aims at Size of the watershed depends upon the objectives:
integrated area development Planning for soil and water conservation; by raising contour
as in the case with DPAP, the bunds to conserve rainwater—optimum size 500-700
emphasis is clearly around hectares.
optimum utilization and Collection of surface run off for drinking water—farm ponds
conservation of land and or tanks
Flood control—large size river basins.
water resources. Based on the Peoples participation
nature of soil and vegetative
cover, surface runoff of the rain water may be quickened or slowed down.
• As watersheds increase in size, they become more complex with regard to slope,
topography, soil and vegetative cover.

S.Rengasamy- Madurai Institute of Social Sciences – Watershed Planning & Development

• Watershed management is primarily concerned with planning the land use to landscape-
land use planning is closely linked with the family activity.
• The basic unit for micro-level planning should be a farming locality within a radius of five
• The optimum size of a micro watershed for integrated rural development should there- fore
be no more than 10000 hectares. A size between 5000 to 10000 hectares would possibly
the optimum size.
• The actual size of the micro-watershed should, however be determined in accordance with
the topographic characteristics of soil texture and composition, vegetative cover and the
existing land use.
• Funds available for micro watersheds planning are limited – hence it can be better utilized
in a small area to restore the ecological balance.
• As the ultimate purpose of watershed management is to improve the quality of human life,
the size of the population should also taken into account while determining the optimum
size of the watershed
• In areas of high population density, the higher area limit and in the area of sparse
population, the higher area limit should the deciding criteria

Steps in watershed Planning

After identification the next step is to prepare a land
use plan. Land use plan is to be prepared as under:
1. Contour mapping of 5 mts interval
2. Existing land use map preparation. This map
should show the land under forest, pastures, field
crops, and other crops like plantation, fruits etc.
3. A map showing the soil types.
4. A map showing the streams within the watershed, all tanks, all canals, and their
5. A map showing all areas irrigated by various methods eg. wells, canals, tanks etc
6. Map showing all human settlements – rural/urban with important economic and social
facilities such as health Centre, schools, vet.hospitals, drinking water, communication
(post & telegraph) facilities and other public institutions like co-operatives, banks, police
station etc.
7. A map showing the road net work with bus facilities
all this means that watershed planning is not only a device to conserve the land and water
resources and to make the best use of them, but also to carry out an integrated physical and
socio- economic development planning exercise within an ecological frame work

S.Rengasamy- Madurai Institute of Social Sciences – Watershed Planning & Development

Factors that Influence Participation within the Watershed Context

Location of land in
the watershed
Degree of dependence on
natural resource base for
livelihood or subsistence needs
Size of landholding
and land ownership

Landowners and landless,

small and big farmers,
labourers and artisans
Extent of land
Access to agricultural
inputs and non-farm
resources for development

Objectives of watershed planning

Objectives can be any one or more of the following.
1. Conservation of moisture in rain fed area for optimal utilization.
2. To check soil erosion.
3. To control problem of drainage, salinity and alkalinity.
4. To control flood
5. To check siltation prevention in reservoirs.
6. Collections of surplus run off in farm ponds and its recycling for crop use.
7. To recharge grounds water or increase water table in wells.
8. Collections of surplus run off for meeting the drinking water requirement of cattle, and
human population in desert areas.
9. To improve the main and on- farm irrigation systems for increased productivity and
increased area under irrigation.

Mechanism for peoples participation;

Human and cattle population directly and indirectly affected by what happens in the
watershed. They depend for their basic necessities on watershed. Drought lead to acute water
scarcity—water and fodder has to be transported—flood cause damage –cattle and crop loses
can damage the economy.
Contour bunding cut across farmer’s field—so they object—field bunding is welcomed.
Watershed management societies
Livestock management societies
Water conservation—Vegetative, mechanical.

Objectives of the Command area development program

Utilization of ground water resources.
Land shaping of watershed areas for integrated crop planning
Development of field channel and field drainage system within the farmers block to prevent
water logging and to utilize water resources more efficiently.

S.Rengasamy- Madurai Institute of Social Sciences – Watershed Planning & Development

Constraints to Participation in Watershed Management Projects

Constraints to Participation in Watershed Management Projects

In the Indian context, many factors influence an individual's ability to participate in the planning
and implementing process of a watershed management project. These factors may relate to the
individual's access to and dependence on the natural resource base, or, they may be related to the
individual's bargaining power in the community.
Degree of dependence on the natural resource base
The degree of dependence on the natural resource base for livelihood or subsistence needs is
determined by land ownership and size of the landholding, e.g., poor landless households have a
high degree of dependence on common land. Land-owning households can obtain fuel wood and
fodder from their own land, but if their landowning is small, then there will be some degree of
dependence on common lands. Better-off households might switch to kerosene or gas. Similarly,
some livelihoods like leaf plate making are completely dependent on the natural resource base.
As a group, women are landless and have less control over resources than men. However, the
degree of dependence on the natural resource base is also determined by whether or not they
belong to land owning families. It has been observed that women from “higher caste” or “better-
off families” are less interested in the management of common lands. Women also generally have
lower bargaining power in the community.
Caste, ethnic/tribal affiliation
Traditional, caste-based occupations still exist and many of them (e.g., those of craftsmen and
artisans) depend on the natural resource base. In some villages it is found that certain castes are
landowners and others are landless. Caste also influences bargaining power in the community,
with lower-caste people frequently having little say in issues affecting the whole community.
Tribal populations are also more dependent upon the natural resource base and often have less
control over these resources.
Political affiliation
Affiliation to the dominant political party in the region facilitates access to natural resources
and to bargaining power in the
Location of land in the watershed
This is important, since lands in the valleys often receive the most benefit from treatment in the
watershed. Also, greater investments are required for treating lands on the upper slopes
and the farmers may not be able to afford them. Fertile lowlands are generally owned richer
farmers while it is the poorer farmers own the uplands.
Size of landholding and land ownership
The size of landholding determines the economic status and bargaining power of the farmer as
well as the extent of his/her dependence on the common lands for fulfilling subsistence needs.
Extent of land degradation
This affects the productivity and also the investments required for rehabilitating the land.
Access to agricultural inputs and non-farm resources for development
Large farmers have greater access to agricultural inputs than small farmers. Women farmers rarely
have access to resources and extension services.
These factors determine an individual’s capacity to contribute to the planning and implementation
of watershed project activities. Decisions taken for project implementation, in turn, have an impact
on the livelihood of the individual

S.Rengasamy- Madurai Institute of Social Sciences – Watershed Planning & Development

Determining and enforcing appropriate cropping pattern for the various blocks according to
the availability of water.
Preparing an input (fertilizer, credit) plan
Conceiving and implementation of land leveling, soil conservation and aforestation action

Problems in command area projects:

Ø On farm development requires legislation on re-alignment of farm boundaries, land
leveling and land shaping.
Ø Implementation of appropriate cropping pattern requires legislative support.
Ø Uniform legislation regarding irrigation control and regulation of groundwater is required
to be enacted.
Ø Salinity problem and its control
Ø Seepage from canals
Ø Problems of water distribution at the tail end of the canal
Ø Consolidation and re-alignment of field boundaries.
Ø Inadequacy, misutilization and non-utilization of funds; cost escalation, lack of
investigation, delay in decision making. Land acquisition problems
Ø Non-realization of anticipated crop pattern –inadequate field channels, land preparation,
neglect of maintenance, mal-distribution of water supply, lack of departmental co-
Ø Lack of personal planning ,recruitment and deployment
Ø Lack of appropriate training policy and extension system

S.Rengasamy- Madurai Institute of Social Sciences – Watershed Planning & Development

What is Watershed?
A watershed can be defined as the drainage basin or catchment area of a particular stream or river.
Simply put, it refers to the area from where the water flows to a particular drainage system, like a river
or stream, comes from.
Why Watershed Development?
People and their environment are interdependent. Any change in the surrounding environment directly
affects the people living therein. A degraded environment results in a degraded quality of life of the
people. Thus efforts to reduce poverty and improve the standard of living of the people must aim at
improving the environment they live in.
The environment does not recognize people determined administrative boundaries. A watershed
provides a natural environmental unit for planning a developmental initiative.
What is Watershed Development?
Watershed development refers to the conservation, regeneration and the judicious use of all the
resources - natural (land, water, plants, animals) and human - within a particular watershed. Watershed
management tries to bring about the best possible balance in the environment between natural
resources on the one side, and human and other living beings on the other.
Components of Watershed Development
• Human Resource Development (Community Development)
• Soil and Land Management
• Water Management
• Crop Management
• Afforestation
• Pasture/Fodder Development
• Livestock Management
• Rural Energy Management
• Farm and non-farm value addition activities
All these components are interdependent and interactive.
Why People's Participation?
The environment is a living space on which the human community living within that area depends on for
its livelihood. When the economic condition of a community deteriorates it leads to over-exploitation and
degradation of natural resources which, in turn, further exacerbates poverty. It is thus necessary for
people to see the relationship between their poverty and the degraded environment they live in.
Thus, just as human beings and their activities are the cause of environmental destruction, it is only
they who can restore to health the ruined environment. Hence there can be no sustainable natural
resources management unless it involves the participation of all the inhabitants of the concerned
environment / area in an active manner.