Watershed management is not equitable

  • 14/04/1997

On the higher value model of watershed development advocated by him:
Conventional watershed development models demand land and water resource development in an entire area which is classified as the watershed and does not discriminate between the land of the rich and the poor. But the higher value model of watershed development upgrades the concept of traditional watershed in favour of the poor people.

On the implementation of this higher model:
The concept is based on the models used in many parts of Andhra Pradesh. Some of the isolated components of watershed management are being implemented on the basis of this higher value concept. Unlike a conventional watershed development programme where private lands often get a priority, the modified approach first develops common land, as poor people depend more on common land for their requirements.

On the possibility of treating land in an isolated fashion:
It is possible to treat land in an isolated manner. The conventional concept of land treatment has come from the West where cultivable land is only 200-300 years old. But Indian farmers have been practising land management since ages and the assumption that they lack knowledge on land erosion and related concepts, is a fallacy. The same is true about water management. Indian farmers build bunds (dams) across their fields in such a way that water flows from various places to accumulate at one place and, after several such cycles, one non-erosive terrace is formed. Then, even if water goes outside, it does not erode the terrace. Thus, gully courses formed in 10 per cent of the land is not treated as a curse as the soil that concentrates in 90 per cent of the field increases foodgrain production. It allows farmers to raise two crops in places where cultivation of even one crop was uncertain. Even paddy, which is impossible to raise in drought-prone areas, could be cultivated.

On the shortcomings of the traditional concept of watershed management:
It relies completely on the technical aspect. The assumption is that people are facing a lot of problems and that scientists and technocrats just need to implement these solutions to put things right. But even after improving this concept, the results are highly discouraging and people are still facing the same problems. This means that watershed management may not just be a technical problem, but a social one too.

On whether advocacy of equity in watershed management has shown any tangible results:
The biggest achievement is the revised guidelines issued by the Central government in 1994. These guidelines aim to reverse the traditional concept of watershed management and seek people's participation in these programmes. These practices have been adopted by a few people

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