Our Water Resources: Watershed Development, Methods of Water Conservation

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Watershed Development

The meaning of watershed refers to an area whose water flows towards a point. The planned use of this water can deliver better results. Related area may be a village or a group of villages in the form of a unit. All kinds of land like agricultural, waste lands, and forests may be included in this area. Maximum use of the land is possible by adopting watershed programme. The overall development with proper utilization of water in the area is considered to be watershed development.

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Benefits of Watershed Development

The following benefits can be achieved by watershed development:

  • Supply of water for drinking and irrigation

  • Increase in biodiversity

  • Loss of acidity in the soil and free for standing water

  • Increase in the agricultural production and productivity

  • Decrease in the cutting of forests

  • Increase in the standard of living

  • Increase in employment

  • Increase in personal get together by participation of local people

The Results of Watershed Development

Notwithstanding a huge amount of expenditure made by the Govt. (20 billion dollars by 2000) on watershed development, we have not been able to achieve desired results so far. The following factors are responsible for this:

  • Lack of scientific thinking

  • Imperfect techniques

  • Indifferent attitude of local population

  • Lack of coordination among various departmental agencies

  • Absence of independent ministry

River Linkages

Large areas of the country suffer from droughts and floods. The National Water Development Authority was constituted in 1982 to solve this problem. The main objective of its constitution was to identify only the national water network. Finally, the National Water Development Authority identified linkage of 30 rivers. Large rivers have mainly been included in this programme. Authority has recommended starting of work on 6 places of river linkages and their completion has to be carried out in three stages.

Ist Stage- In the first stage, main peninsular rivers– Mahanadi, Godavari, Krishna, and Cauvery have been included.

IInd Stage- In the second stage, linking of small river basins of peninsular India have been recommended. Ken, Betwa and Par-Tapi rivers are included in this.

IIIrd Stage- In the third stage there is a provision for linking tributaries of Ganga and Brahmaputra with one another.

Benefits of Rivers Linkages

All round development of an area is possible by joining basins. The irrigation of about 250 lakh hectare additional agricultural area is possible by surface water after the success of this programme. Underground water will be available to irrigate additional agricultural area of about 100 lakh hectares. With the result, irrigated area will increase from 1130 lakh hectares to 1500 lakh hectares. Additional hydroelectricity of about 340 lakh kilowatts will be generated. Besides these benefits, many other benefits like flood control, water transport, water supply, fishing, removal of acidity from the soil, and control on water pollution will also be achieved. But these benefits cannot easily be achieved. Much money and time has to be spent on these projects. According to an estimate a large sum of Rs 560 thousand crore are required to complete these projects.

Methods of Water Conservation

If there is no water, there is no life. Hence water conservation is essential. Future generation may be in difficulty due to scarcity of water. The participation of an individual, society, and the government is essential for water conservation. The following methods can be adopted for water conservation:

  • Dams and reservoirs should be constructed on rivers so that river water does not go waste into the seas and oceans.

  • The water of rivers should be saved from pollution by urban waste at all costs.

  • Serious efforts should be made to control floods.

  • Water should be used properly.

  • Solicit active participation of the people in all the activities related to water conservation and efficient management.

  • Potable water should not be used for gardening, washing of vehicles, and cleaning of household.

  • Saving of reservoirs from pollution.

  • Broken pipelines of water should immediately be repaired.

  • Every drop of water is precious; this should be popularized among the masses.

  • There should be stress on afforestation.

A Case Study: Efforts of Tarun Bharat Sangh Towards Water Conservation

  • Tarun Bharat Sangh was established in 1985 under the guidance of Shri Rajendra Singh. It started with Hamirpur village of Thanagazi tehsil in Alwar district of Rajasthan. The residents of Thanagazi area under the guidance of Tarun Bharat Sangh achieved such a miracle which could not be achieved by the Central Water Authority while searching of the Saraswati in western Rajasthan and Bhabha Atomic Research Centre together. Tarun Bharat Sangh is a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). Arvari river was reborn with the efforts of this organization spanning over 15 years. Previously the river was dry and barren. There are two branches of Arvari river. The total length of these is 45 kilometres. Its watershed area is spread in 503 square km. Parts of Jaipur, Dausa and Alwar districts are included in this.

  • Previously, there used to be agricultural in an unirrigated area here. There were no means of irrigation. Agriculture used to be done only on 10 % of the land. Agriculture was entirely dependent upon rain. There was one cropped agriculture. To remove the water scarcity in the area, Tarun Bharat Sangh with the help of villagers cleaned and deepened the tanks and ponds. Besides this, they also vowed to construct ponds on the sloppy parts of the hilly region. A village was chosen for this work in 1985-86. The results were very encouraging. Seeing this, other villagers started competing in getting and making ponds constructed in their areas. ‘Save water’ and ‘Johar Andolan’ were started in 1996. 3500 ponds have so far been constructed in this area. The villagers themselves have constructed more than 70 ponds. Water level of underground water has risen after construction of these ponds. Water is available throughout the year in wells, tanks, ponds, and rivers. Agricultural practices have also changed. Animals have become healthy and smart. Cows and buffaloes have started giving more milk.

  • The standard of living of the people has improved. The families below poverty line are also able to earn 40-50 thousand rupees per annum. Migration of people from villages to cities has stopped. Even migrated families have now started coming back to their villages.

  • The residents of 70 villages in Arvari river basin have constituted a unique parliament of 150 members. This parliament has been named as ‘Arvari Sasad’ after the name of Arvari river. The members of Arvari Sansad took oath on the banks of the river in Hamipur on 26th January 1999. The constitution of Arvari Sansad came into effect from this day. This is such a sansad which not only frame the rules and laws but follow them also. All residents of the area follow these rules and laws strictly and also got them followed by others.

  • Arvari sansad has framed some rules and laws keeping the need of the people, ecological balance and land in mind.

The following are worth mentoring among them:

  • Ban on growing crops such as sugarcane, rice and chillies which require more water.

  • No one will use the river water for agriculture after Holi and before end of rainy season.

  • No industrial unit will be established in watershed area.

  • Recommended growing of millets, Jwar-Bajra and Maize.

  • Allowed to grow vegetables in the lower parts of the river.

  • Ban on hunting and cutting of green trees.

  • No person with an axe will enter into recently developed ‘Bhairon Dev Manas’ sanctuary.

  • The whole region has been declared as an area of biodiversity.

  • Ban on sending food grains and vegetables outside the region.

  • Ban on grazing of animals by the people living outside the watershed area.

Today Arvari river has become very useful for the residents of the area. The people of the area worship this river also. Fair and festivals are celebrated. Arvari Sansad has established ‘Arvari Temple’, Arvari Treasury’, and ‘Arvari Secretariat’. Such programmes are being carried on in other areas also. In this connection encouraging programmes are going on in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, and Chhattisgarh. Such programmes should specially be carried on in rainfed areas.

In brief, it can be said that

  • Water in the most important and precious resources of nature. There are various uses of water. It is used for drinking, domestic work, irrigation, industries, and energy sectors. India is an agricultural country. It has a long growing season. Hence there is maximum use of water in irrigation, wells, tube wells, canals, and tanks are the important sources of irrigation. There is maximum use of wells and tube wells in irrigation.

  • The distribution of water in India is very uneven. Duration of rainfall, nature of rainfall, nature of level, and slope of land are responsible factors for uneven distribution of water. River valley projects have played an important role in the development of water resources, flood control, and appropriate use of water. These have contributed greatly in the economic development of the country and in the conservation of resources. The conservation of water resources has become necessary due to scarcity of water, diversity in temporal and terrestrial distribution of water, increasing demand for water by a large growing population, and changing atmospheric conditions. Special emphasis has been given on rainwater harvesting and watershed development programmes for this. If these programmes are carried out honestly, then water crisis can never arise in India. Among there rainwater harvesting programmes can be completed in low budget with the active cooperation of the people. Many social organization, councils, and individuals have done commendable work in this field. Barren and backward areas have adopted on the path of development with their cooperation.

  • Watershed development and linking rivers together is very expensive time consuming and complex. But this work can be completed by cooperation among different state governments, strong will power of the centre, and cooperation of the people.

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