A watershed can be defined as an independent hydrological unit based on the principle of proper management of all the precipitation by way of collection, storage and efficient utilization of run-off water and use of groundwater that discharge to and receive discharge from streams, wetlands, ponds and lakes.
It comprise of a catchment area (recharge zone), a command area (transition zone) and a delta area (discharge zone). A watershed is thus a logical unit for planning optimal development of its soil, water and biomass resources.
While looking land and water management certain things are obvious:
1. Land and water management can’t be taken in isolation i.e. we need comprehensive land-water management, management of upstream conditions, management of forests.
2. In land-water management, we can’t pursue conservation policy as the land-water are dynamic entities and are interdependent on each other.
3. Any natural system is in context of man and his activities. Man activities can’t be ignored in water, soil and forest management. Man is equally part of ecosystem as any other natural system.
It is watershed concept which deals with all three aspects. Watershed as concept is trying to balance between nature system and compulsion of human activities. This concept is more relevant to any nature based planning.
Watershed is a mental construct, an idea that includes biotic and abiotic components with their interrelationships & interdependency, this justifies that watershed is an ecosystem.
Watershed is addressed & defined in the context of water and natural flow system. Water and the river are what links upstream characteristics i.e. slopes & forests with downstream characteristics i.e. river, flood plain, land-water based activities like- farming, fishing, forests etc. Watershed is integrative concept that integrates man & environment as a part of ecosystem.
While discussing watershed it is important to appreciate the indigenous and local nature of ecology where forest with exotic species, agri that disrupts natural ecology and activities that impacts land-water adversely are not considered naturally part of watershed management.
The fundamentals of watershed therefore are based on following ‘Es’: Ecology, Employment, Economy, Equity
The equity angle in watershed is vital to collaborative efforts without which local participation and mass movement in management of land-water system can’t be assured.
Examples of watershed based activities:
• Concept of social forestry and agro forestry
• Concept of agro climatic based agri development
• All examples of rain water harvesting to meet local demands & drinking water
• Aravali project in Alwar by Rajendra Singh under Tarun Bharat Sangh
• Sukomajri project in Haryana
• Ralegaon Sidhi by Anna Hazare
Constraints of watershed management:
• Building and strengthening competent govt. organisations, NGOs and community based organisations. This is needed as the technical competence of most social organisations is weak.
• It has been observed that most of the successful watershed programs in India have been implemented on a small scale in a few villages. These projects were successful as the participant organisations devoted time and resources. Need is to develop competence at local level to harness the actual potential.
• Mobilizing local financial resources as the budget provided by the govt is insufficient to carry out adequate watershed management work.
• The main problems for monitoring and evaluating projects are the lack of baseline data, impact data and common monitoring guidelines.
• Decentralisation of govt schemes is necessary as the future role of state govt and line departments in watershed management is not clear.
• The equal distribution of costs and benefits between landless and resource poor people and better-off farmers needs intensive facilitation. The rights of users to forests and common lands need to be made clearer.
(Participation of communities, involvement of local population is the necessary precondition in effective intervention for land-water-forest management.)
Components of a watershed:
• Natural physiography of region that gives the river its catchment area.
• River or drainage itself including the surface runoff that drains at a common point
• All the system & processes that maintain and recharge hydrological flow- rainfall and underground water resources
• The upstream or upslope forest and vegetation that maintains the character of flow.
• The local communities that depend on these natural systems
• Their activities such as agri, fishing
Watershed is a mental construct, an idea, it includes physical entities such as drainage basin, catchment area, river system and also the human activities and societies that live & survive natural system. Watershed includes biotic and abiotic components with their interrelationships & interdependency, this justifies that watershed is an ecosystem.
Some appreciation please!