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The need of Watershed Management

by Sanjenbam Jugeshwor Singh
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Water is one of the most indispensable natural resources for sustaining life and its development and its management plays a vital role in agriculture and horticulture production. Integrated water management is vital for poverty reduction, environmental sustenance and sustainable economic development. In view of rapid change in economy due to many factors, the demand for water for meeting various requirements will increase double-fold. In fact Manipur will face numerous challenges in the water sector. Rapid increased in urbanization and rise in population has already initiated the challenge for water demand and have resulted in reducing the per capita water availability. The quality of surface water and ground water is also deteriorating because of increasing pollutants loads from various sources. Climate change is also adversely affecting the availability and distribution of water resources with erratic rainfall. Conserving water has become a prime environmental concern. Clean water is becoming increasingly scarce globally. With deforestation surface run-off increases and the sub-soil water table drops as water has no time to seep slowly into the ground once the vegetation is cleared. In order to meet the challenges of overall water scarcity scenario in the state of Manipur, various measures can be taken such as the construction of water harvesting structures, mass awareness among citizens for various conservation, interlink age of rivers, renovation and repair/rejuvenation of existing water bodies etc.
Along with water resource management, the focus also lies in watershed management of water bodies like rivers, streams, lakes, ponds etc. Watershed is not simply the hydrological unit but also socio-political-ecological entity which plays a crucial role in determining food, social and economic security and provides life support services to rural people. The criterion for selecting watershed size also depends on the objectives of development and terrain slope. A large watershed can be managed in plain valley areas or where forest or pastures development is the main objective. In hilly areas or where intensive agriculture development is planned, the size of watershed relatively preferred is small. The rain-fed agriculture contributes 58% to world’s food basket from 80% agricultural land. 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 infrastructures. Watershed development program is therefore considered as an effective tool for addressing many of these problems and recognized as potential engine for agricultural 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 bio-diversity concern.
About 60% 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. Rainfall pattern in these areas are highly variable both in terms of total amount and its distribution, which leads to moisture stress during critical stage of crop production and makes agriculture production vulnerable to pre and post production risk. Watershed development in the country has been sponsored and implemented by the Government of India from early 1970s onwards. A watershed also called a drainage basin or catchment area is defined as an area in which all water flows into it goes to a common outlet.Rivers originate in streams that flow down mountain and hill-slopes. A group of small streams flow downhill side to meet larger streams in the valley which forms the tributaries of major rivers.Hydrologically, watershed is an area from which the run-off flows to a common point on the drainage system. Every stream, tributary or river has an associated watershed and small watershed aggregate together to become large watershed. Water travels from head water to the downward location and meets with similar strength of stream then it forms one order higher stream. The management of a single unit of land with its water drainage system is called watershed management. This is a technique that has several components including soil and water management and developing vegetation cover. The natural drainage pattern of a watershed unit, if manage properly can bring about local prosperity by providing year-round supply of water thus improving the quality of life in the area.People and livestock are the integral part of watershed and their activities affect the productive status of watershed and vice-versa. From the hydrological point of view, the different phases of hydrological cycle in a watershed are dependent on the various natural featuresand human activities. The major objectives of watershed management are: (i) conservation, up-gradation and utilization of natural endowments such as land, water, plant, animals and human resources in a harmonious and integrated manner with low cost, simple, effective and replicable technology (ii) generation of massive employment (iii) reduction of inequalities between irrigated and rain-fed areas and poverty alleviation.
Watershed development requires multiple interventions that jointly enhance the resource base livelihood of the rural people. This requires capacity building of all the stakeholders from farmers to policy makers. Capacity building is a process to strengthen the abilities of people to make effective and efficient use of resource in order to achieve their own goals on a sustained basis. Unawareness and ignorance of the stakeholders about the objectives, approach and activities are the reason that affect the performance of the watershed. Capacity building program focuses on construction of low cost soil and water conservation method 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 government officials and 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 watershed development.
(Writer can be reached to: [email protected])

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Imphal Times is a daily English newspaper published in Imphal and is registered with Registrar of the Newspapers for India with Regd. No MANENG/2013/51092


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