Watersheds, encompassing a network of streams and rivers that channel into larger bodies of water, play a vital role in water resource management. These hydrological units are stratified based on size, with micro watersheds covering 500-1000 hectares. In India, these micro-watersheds hold significant promise, particularly in drought-prone and semi-arid regions, as catalysts for water conservation and sustainable development.

Moisture Conservation and Land Development:

  • Micro-watershed development projects focus on initiatives like contour bunds that help mitigate runoff by creating embankments.
  • Resultant land development enhances water infiltration and retention, effectively countering the arid conditions.
  • Example: In Rajasthan, micro-watershed interventions have turned barren lands into productive fields through soil and moisture conservation measures.

Green Cover and Groundwater Recharge:

  • Block plantations and horticultural programs within micro-watersheds augment the region’s green cover.
  • Increased vegetation aids groundwater recharge, replenishing underground aquifers.
  • Case in point: Maharashtra’s ‘Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan’ promotes tree plantations in micro-watersheds, fostering groundwater recharge and sustainable land use.

Slope Management for Cultivation:

  • Micro-watershed projects partition sloping terrains into multiple levels, facilitating cultivation.
  • This strategy curbs soil erosion and aids efficient water distribution across different crops.
  • Example: The Western Ghats Development Programme in Karnataka has successfully employed slope farming techniques in micro-watersheds.

Adapting Cropping Practices:

  • Customized water-efficient cropping methods are introduced, tailored to the region’s agro-climatic conditions.
  • Such practices optimize water usage while maintaining agricultural productivity.
  • For instance, in Tamil Nadu, micro-watershed management promotes rainfed crops like millets, well-suited to the region’s conditions.

Water Resource Management:

  • Micro-watershed development involves desiltation of water tanks and improved resource management.
  • Enhanced water availability supports drinking water needs and irrigation requirements.
  • Example: The ‘Neeru-Meeru’ initiative in Telangana rejuvenated water bodies in micro-watersheds, elevating water availability for multi-purpose use.

Restoration of Common Property:

  • Micro-watershed projects contribute to the revival and enhancement of common property resources.
  • This communal approach fosters collective responsibility for sustainable water use and management.
  • Illustration: The watershed development approach in Gujarat has revitalized traditional water bodies like step wells, benefiting local communities.

Micro-watershed development projects emerge as pivotal instruments in addressing water scarcity and promoting sustainable practices in India’s drought-prone and semi-arid regions. By integrating moisture conservation, slope management, green cover augmentation, and water resource enhancement, these initiatives bolster water security, agricultural productivity, and rural livelihoods. Their successful implementation across diverse Indian contexts underscores their significance in mitigating the challenges posed by water scarcity and climatic variations.

Legacy Editor Changed status to publish May 30, 2024