The Soil conservation programmes in the state are being executed since fifties, earlier by the Agriculture department and after 1991 by the Watershed Development department.
A lot has been learnt through these programmes. In early fifties, only soil conservation works were taken on individual field basis. In early seventies the emphasis was given on good potential crop varieties, moisture conservation practices, input oriented cropping, but, this could not go long because of uncertainties in amount and intensities of rainfall coupled with resources of poor farmers. So, the emphasis in the end seventies shifted to water conservation and water harvesting techniques. Good results were obtained but need for vegetative conservation measures and promoting simple low cost water management technologies was felt. Looking to this in early eighties, the emphasis was on low cost technologies based on sectoral approach where Forestry, Horticulture, Soil Conservation, Agriculture, Animal Husbandry etc were planned and implemented independently, but the funds for integrated development were not made available by the departments at the same time and in the same area. Looking to this, in mid eighties the concept of integrated watershed management was adopted. Though the approach was holistic but was not sustainable after withdrawal of the project. In the early nineties, the emphasis was given on participatory integrated watershed management for sustenance of the programmes and there was substantial increase in funds from GOI under NWDPRA, DPAP, DDP and IWDP for integrated watershed development works, as such for effective implementation of programme, Department of Watershed Development & Soil Conservation was created from 1991.
In pursuance of 23rd constitutional amendment, field functionaries and budget have been transferred to Panchayati Raj Institutions and hence all Watershed Development Works under various schemes are now being implemented through elected statutory body i.e. Gram Panchayat/ P.R.Is since 1-4-04.At state level the program is being supervised & monitored by directorate Watershed Development & Soil Conservation.
Concept of watershed development
Out of the five elements of nature, water is the most important natural element supporting life on the earth. The earth is often called the 'Water Planet` because oceans cover 71 per cent of its surface. The total quantity of water on our planet is fixed and its distribution is highly uneven. Almost 95 per cent of the total water present is chemically bound into rocks and does not cycle. Of the remainder, about 97.515 per cent constitutes the oceans, about 2.154 per cent exists as ice in the polar caps and permanent glaciers and the rest is fresh water present in the form of atmospheric water vapour, groundwater and inland surface water. Thus, less than one per cent of the total freshwater participates in the hydrological cycle.
Soil, vegetation and water are the most important and vital natural resources for the survival of man and his animals. To obtain the optimum production of biomass, all the three natural resources have to be managed efficiently, one has to look for a suitable “Units(s) of management” so that there resources are managed effectively, collectively and simultaneously. Soils can be managed on the basis of a soil series or type or any other convenient unit of land; vegetation can be managed on forest type/forest sub-type or similar classification for trees/grasses etc. water can be managed if a watershed is taken as a unit. Since soil and vegetation can also be conveniently and efficiently managed in this unit, the watershed is considered the ideal unit for managing these three vital and interdependent natural resources of soil, water and vegetation.
Watershed is that area from which all precipitation flows to a single stream. Synonyms are “catchment area” and “drainage basin”. The boundaries of watershed are known as drainage divide; precipitation falling on opposite sides of a drainage divide falls into different watershed. Only part of the precipitation that falls on a watershed ultimately gets into the stream; it is known as runoff and varies widely among watersheds. The rest of the precipitation either evaporated back into the atmosphere directly from the water surface as well as from land surface. The part of the precipitation that is intercepted by vegetation is also evaporated and returned to the air. Out of the water absorbed by the plants from the soil, a substantial portion is also returned to the atmosphere by transpiration. Other simple definition of watershed can be “a unit of area which covers all land and water areas which contribute runoff to a common point”. A watershed may be only a few hectares or hundreds or thousands of square miles.
Keeping in view the ecological, soil conservation, food, fuel, fodder and other needs of the growing population and environmental needs, a sustainable land use programme based on watershed basis, is required to be evolved. “Watershed management” is thus on integration of technologies within the natural boundaries of drainage area for optimum development of land, water and plant resources to meet the basic needs of the people in sustained manner.
Each watershed has a distinct individuality to various parameters which impart specific – characteristics to the watershed and define its potentialities and problems. The data on size, shape, relief, drainage, geology, soil, climate, surface, condition and land use, ground water and socio-economic status of the watershed are required to determine runoff and its potential for development as a water resource, sedimentation, moisture conservation measures to be adopted, proper land use planning and other development programmes. The people and animals are also part of the watershed community. All depend on the watershed and they intern, influence what happens there – whether it is good or bad. What happens in a small watershed also affects the largest watersheds? So there should be balance and harmony in all these “J” of watershed ‘Jal’. ‘Jungle’,,’Jamin’ (three main resource), ‘Janvar’ and ‘Jan’
In this programme the development is not confined just to agricultural lands alone but covers the entire watershed area starting from the highest point (ridge line) to the out let of the nallah or natural stream, this involves implementation of ameliorative measures on barren hill slopes marginal lands, privately owned lands and badly cut nallahs and river courses.