India has a net cultivated area of 142 million hectares (Mha).Out of this, only 85 Mha is rainfed and suffers from low agricultural productivity, soil degradation, lack of water holding capacities, lack of fodder and poor quality of livestock. All these factors have together resulted in abject poverty and malnutrition for those living in these areas. The Integrated Watershed Management Programme (IWMP) aims at prevention of soil erosion, regeneration of vegetative cover, introduction of rain water harvesting and recharging of ground water table. The IWMP seeks to bring together all government agencies under one common programme to address all these problems and improve the quality of life and health of these people through enhanced livelihood opportunities.
IWMP was launched in 2009-10 with the objective of bringing various programmes such as the Integrated Wastelands Development Programme (IWDP), Desert Development Programme (DDP) and Drought Prone Areas Programme (DDAP), under one common integrated programme.
Additional Rs 29,296 crore has been allocated to IWMP, under the 12th Five year plan. The programme has uniform funding pattern where the Centre funds 90 per cent of the project cost with the states contributing the remaining 10 per cent. The Centre releases funds in three instalments of 20 per cent, 50 per cent and 30 per cent. The project implementation period ranges from four to seven years. Cluster approach is adopted in selecting and preparing the project, with the average size of the IWMP implementation being 5,000 hectares, which comprises a cluster of micro-watersheds. The programme also involves extensive use of technology using remote sensing data, IT and GIS for project planning, implementation, monitoring and evaluation.
Background to IWMP
In 1994, Prof Hanumantha Rao headed a committee set up to assess the efficacy of the Drought Prone Areas Programme (DPAP) and the Desert Development Programme (DDP). The Committee made several recommendations to bring various programmes under one common integrated programme. Subsequent years saw the Integrated Wastelands Development Programme (IWDP) and the National Watershed Development Project for Rainfed Areas (NWDPRA) also being included under a common nomenclature 'Hariyali Guidelines'.
By 2006, the National Rainfed Area Authority was set up to study and implement sustainable development in these areas that improved both ecology and human lives. Various studies identified watershed development, soil & water conservation and efficient water management, as key areas to improve the ecology on a sustainable basis.
Criteria for selecting a Watershed Project under IWMP
The areas that comprise maximum degraded/eroded soil and where there is a scarcity of water and over exploitation of ground water, being dependent on rain, remain mostly dry in other months due to lack of water catchments and mini-reservoirs of any kind. The land must hold potential for regeneration of water resources, along with development of soil for basic vegetative growth. In addition, contiguity to another watershed that has already been developed or revived, would be an added advantage.
Role and responsibility of various stakeholders under IWMP
National Rainfed Area Authority (NRAA): NRAA is tasked with preparation and collating all technical information based on local agro-climatic and socio-economic conditions and preparing area specific strategic plans, at the state and district level.
NRAA undertakes need assessment in coordination with State Level Nodal Agencies (SLNA) and interface with various national and international funding agencies to meet critical funding gaps. It works with local voluntary organisations and Self Help Group's (SHG) resource planning and work allocation.
National Level Data Centre and National Portal: Both agencies work under the NRAA and provide all relevant technical data and analysis needed to develop strategies and monitor outcomes of the programme.
State Level Nodal Agency (SLNA): The SLNA comprises representatives from the central, state and centrally sponsored organisations like NABARD etc and have a CEO to head all operational matters. Based on the approved state perspective and need, SLNA is mandated to sanction watershed projects for the state, as per guidelines laid down.
SLNA has an independent bank account and coordinates all fund flow from central and state agencies to all stakeholders at the grassroots level.
The SLNA monitors process and progress of the project and maintains a state level data cell and connect it online to the National level data centre. It is tasked to conduct social audit and sustainability monitoring and also coordinate with external monitoring agencies on project work and outcomes.
District Watershed Development Unit (DWDU): In districts where the watershed area is around 25,000 hectares, a DWDU is established which has one Project Manager and 3-4 subject matter specialists to assist in formulating district level strategies in coordination with SLNA.
The DWDU is authorised to identify and award contracts to various Project Implementing Agencies (PIA) and ensuring fund flow to all PIAs, along with maintaining district level data cell and linking it to state and national level data centres.
Role of Project Implementing Agency
A PIA may include members of any arm of a government sponsored organisation, voluntary organisation, intermediate panchayat etc. It works under guidance from SLNA.
The PIA is to provide technical assistance to Gram Panchayat on all aspects of watershed project identification, evaluation, implementation and monitoring of outcomes.
The PIA is also responsible for raising additional funding resources required from organisations like NREGA, National Horticulture Mission, BRGF, Tribal Welfare Schemes and SGRY etc.
Role of Watershed Committee: The WC is formed under the aegis of the Gram Sabha and must be registered under the Society Registration Act, 1980. The Gram Sabha is authorised to appoint the WC Chairman, who in turn heads a minimum 10 member committees.
The WC opens a separate bank account and receives funds for the watershed project in their area and disburses funds, as needed, for project implementation and related expenses.
Role of People
Self Help Groups (SHG): SHGs in the watershed area comprise the poor and landless, small and marginal farmers, labourers, women, and shepherds etc, who are most likely to benefit from the watershed development. The nodal ministry provides revolving finance for a predetermined amount, as per the project need.
The Watershed Committee identifies user groups and signs agreements with them after receiving consent on goals and timelines, based on equity and sustainability.
The user groups are responsible for the operation and maintenance of all assets, in close coordination with the Gram Panchayat and Gram Sabha.
Role of the Gram Panchayat (GP): The GP is mandated to supervise, guide and monitor the WC and audit all accounts under the watershed project, as managed by the WC.
Outcomes of the IWMP
As India is diverse in geography and topography, the net outcomes of various components of the programme have been varied. In addition, results have also varied based on the level of people participation. Also, with changes in weather patterns, the results have varied each year.
The best overall results have been noted in states like Gujarat, MP and Rajasthan, while states like J&K has been a poor performer, in both outcomes and people participation.
Some of the challenges faced have been in the post watershed implementation phase, due to lack of post implementation maintenance and the subsequent silting. Lack of people participation due to lack of awareness of benefits and training, has also been a factor for poor results achieved in certain states and areas within a state.
Reduction in Soil Erosion: On reducing soil erosion, greater success has been achieved. States like U.P., Tamil Nadu and Gujarat achieved maximum reduction in soil erosion. Activities undertaken to prevent soil erosion included Check Dam, Gully Plug, Contour Bund, Bori Bund, and Afforestation.
Increase in Ground Water Level: One of the most critical parameters under the IWMP is the level of ground water. In the post programme period, moderate improvement in ground water level was seen in states like Gujarat, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Himachal Pradesh and Nagaland. States like U.P, Andhra Pradesh and J&K reported only marginal improvement.
Increase in Surface Water and Stream Flow: Another important measure of success is the increase in surface water level and stream flow. In Tamil Nadu, 73 per cent of the watersheds reported increase in surface water by 20-40 per cent, while 27 per cent reported an increase below 20 per cent. In stream water flow, the state showed a 5-10 per cent increase in 40 per cent of the watersheds, while 40 per cent reported an increase between 5-10 per cent.
In Rajasthan, 46 per cent of the watersheds reported increase of 20-40 per cent in water level and 49 per cent reported an increase of 20 per cent and 5 per cent reported no increase. Likewise, 53 per cent of the watersheds reported 5-10 per cent increase in stream water flow. Results were varied for other states.
Water Runoff Reduction: In most of the project areas there was a reduction in water runoff due to contour or filed bunding.
Crop Diversification, Cropping Intensity, Change in Land Use Pattern and Agricultural Productivity: In all the above, there has been a significant improvement reported from most of the project areas. This has been a major objective of the IWMP since this develops the ecology while offering sustainable livelihood opportunities to the relevant communities.
Better crop selection backed with better quality of seeds and soil management, crop rotation and intensification has helped in adding more areas for cultivation and also helped in supplementing incomes for economically weaker sections of the community.
Increase in employment and reduction in migration: The project resulted in an increase in local employment for marginalised communities and this further resulted in reduced migration to other areas for employment.
Poverty alleviation and improved standard of living: With higher income generated through direct and in direct involvement in the project, people were able to self-sustain themselves to a greater extent by living off the benefits accrued from higher output in agriculture, livestock and related activities. There has been an improved standard of living.
Box: The state wise new targets for IWMP projects in 2014-15 (in lakh hectares)
Madhya Pradesh: 4.66
Andhra Pradesh: 4.06
Uttar Pradesh: 3.13
West Bengal: 1.83
Tamil Nadu: 1.55