By – V. Mohan Rao :India has made a significant progress in bringing about rapid and sustainable development and socio-economic transformation in rural areas by adopting an integrated approach towards improving the quality of life of rural poor during the last six decades.
The thrust of the rural development programmes has been to make a frontal attack on poverty through special employment generation programmes, productive asset transfer through institutional credit, subsidy programmes, rural housing, drinking water and sanitation. The major focus was the provision of social security to destitute and poor families. The Ministry of Rural Development has undertaken several measures for the development of wastelands, desert and drought prone areas and land reforms in the country. These include assistance and encouragement to voluntary agencies and training of functionaries. With a view to having a holistic approach to the task of ensuring sustainable development of land, the Ministry has established the Land Resources Department to facilitate a coordinated policy intervention as well as quality improvement in area development schemes. NGOs, Self Help Groups and Panchayati Raj Institutions have been accorded adequate role in the new initiatives. Under Green Revolution, irrigated agriculture in the country got a good impact but the scope was little for the rain-fed and semi-arid regions. As a result, the agricultural productivity remained low, natural resources were gradually degrading and the inhabitants became poor. Keeping this in view, in early, 1980s and 1990s, agricultural scientists and the planners had developed the concept of watershed management to develop rain-fed agriculture while conserving natural resources.
Watershed & Watershed Management
The Department of Land Resources to act as a nodal department in the field of watershed management and development. The term watershed has been defined as the highest topographic point from where rainwater gets diverted or divided. It is an area from which all water drains to a common point, making it an interesting unit for managing water and soil resources to enhance agricultural production through water conservation. The whole country may be described as the watershed of various mountains, hilly regions and belts found on land like the Himalayas, Vindhyas, Western and Eastern Ghats and many others. The government has been giving high priority to holistic and sustainable development of rain-fed areas based on the watershed approach. Several projects for productivity enhancement are being implemented on watershed approach. This is being done through centrally sponsored schemes. Watershed management involves harmonising the use of soil and water resources between up and downstream areas within a watershed to ensure natural resource conservation, increased agricultural productivity and a better standard of living for its inhabitants. Landscape, climate changes and economic developments in watersheds stimulate a corresponding cascade of dynamic adjustments in both water quantity and water quality at locations further downstream. The watershed development also refers to the judicious use of natural resources like land, water, plants and animals and human beings. It also brings about the best possible balance in the environment.
Rajiv Gandhi Watershed Mission Rajiv Gandhi Watershed Mission is an ambitious programme of the Madhya Pradesh government for sustainable development of area on watershed basis. It not only aims at conservation of natural resources like land and water, but also attempts to improve economic conditions of villagers by enhancing their employment opportunities in their village. The Mission was launched in August 1994. It has innovated the approach of watershed management through community participation. At present, this programme is being implemented in all the 459 blocks of Madhya Pradesh in an area of about three million hectares. Of the total geographical area of 443.48 lakh hectares, approximately 200 lakh hectares area is sown, of which only about 25 per cent area has assured irrigation. Unpredictable variations in agricultural productivity in rain-fed areas coupled with increased biotic pressure on the natural resources had led to an increasingly fragile ecosystem. It was realized that only a strategy, which looked at these inter-linkages would provide for sustainable and holistic development in these areas. Livelihood opportunities of the people dependent on rain-fed agriculture has improved by conserving the soil and water resources and optimizing their use, which would ultimately manifest in healthy regeneration of natural resources. This also increased the agricultural productivity in the State. Watershed management is a labour intensive and scientific approach towards this end. Goal of the mission is the sustainable use of natural resources by an empowered and aware community.
• To augment ecological degradation and improve the environmental resource base, to develop an easily available repository of scientific and technological inputs especially for the field level implementing agencies which could facilitate detailed and area specific planning, to maximize people’s participation,
• To restore ecological degradation and improve the environmental resource-base, To develop an easily available repository of scientific and technological inputs especially for the field level implementing agencies, which could facilitate detailed and area-specific planning,
• To maximize the people’s participation in concept, planning, implementation and maintenance of soil and water conservation activities in watershed area so that the entire corpus of scheme becomes effective as well as transparent in working, and To focus on disadvantaged communities through equitable distribution of resources and sharing of benefits.
This is country’s biggest watershed management programme in Madhya Pradesh. Over 13, 000 kilometre long roads were constructed under the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) till last year. About 4.50 lakh villages were connected with the main roads. Nearly 350 lakh man-days worth employment generated under NREGA scheme.
Need For Intensive People’s Participation
The Centre and the state governments are continuously developing strategies for conservation and development of these resources through watershed approach, which provides the ideal means for integrated development of the concerned areas and its inhabitants. These measures have also opened up new vistas in agriculture development besides improving and stabilizing crop production. The success of any project or programme depends upon the participation of the people in its implementation. The need of the hour is to intensify people’s participation to make the Watershed Mission a further success.