Sustainable Solutions: Watershed Management for a Greener Future

The land area drained by a river is known as the river basin. The watershed is defined as the land area from which water drains under gravity to a common drainage channel. Thus watershed is a delineated area with a well defined topographic boundary and one water outlet. The watershed can range from a few square kilometers to few thousand square kilometers in size. 

Watershed Management
Watershed Management 

In the watershed the hydrological conditions are such that water becomes concentrated within a particular location like a river or a reservoir, by which the watershed is drained. The watershed comprises complex interactions of soil, landform, vegetation, land use activities and water. People and animals are an integral part of a watershed having mutual impacts on each other. We may live anywhere we would be living in some watershed. A watershed affects as it is directly involved in sustained food production, water supply for irrigation, power generation, and transportation as well as for influencing sedimentation and erosion, vegetation growth, floods and droughts. Thus management of watersheds treating them as a basic functional unit is extremely important and the first such Integrated Watershed Management was adopted in 1949 by the Damodar Valley Corporation. 


Watershed degradation

The watersheds are very often found to be degraded due to uncontrolled, unplanned and unscientific land use activities. Organizing, deforestation, mining, construction activities, industrialization, shifting cultivation, natural and artificial fires, soil erosion and ignorance of local people have been responsible for degradation of various watersheds. 

Objectives of Watershed Management 

Rational utilization of land and water sources for optimum production causing minimum damage to the natural resources is known as watershed management.  
The objectives of watershed management are as follows: 
1. To rehabilitate the watershed through proper land use adopting conservation strategies for minimizing soil erosion and moisture retention so as to ensure good productivity of the land for the farmers. 
2. To manage the watershed for beneficial developmental activities like domestic water supply, irrigation, hydropower generation etc. 
3. To minimize the risks of floods, droughts and landslides. 
4. To develop rural areas in the region with clear plans for improving the economy of the regions. 

Watershed management practices

In the fifth year plan, watershed management approach was included with a number of programs for it and a national policy was developed. In watershed management the aspects of development are considered with regard to availability of the resources. 

The practices of conservation and development of land and water are taken up with respect to their suitability for people’s benefit as well as sustainability.  

Various measures taken up for management include the following: 

1. Water harvesting: Proper storage of water is done with provision for use in dry seasons in low rainfall areas. It also helps in moderation of floods. 

2. Afforestation and agro-forestry: In watershed development, afforestation and crop plantation play a very important role. They help to prevent soil erosion and retention of moisture. In high rainfall areas, woody trees are grown in between crops to substantially reduce the runoff and loss of fertile soil. In Dehradun trees like Eucalyptus, Leucaena and grasses like chrysopogon are grown along with maize or wheat to achieve the objectives. Woody trees grown successfully in such agro-forestry programs include Sheesham, Teak and Keekar which have been used in watershed areas of river Yamuna. 

3. Mechanical measures for reducing soil erosion and runoff losses: Several mechanical measures like terracing, bunding, bench terracing, no-till farming, contour cropping, strip cropping etc. are used to minimize runoff and soil erosion particularly on the slopes of watersheds. Bunding has proved to be a very useful method in reducing runoff, peak discharge and soil loss in Dehradun and Siwaliks 

4. Scientific mining and quarrying: Due to improper mining, the hills lose stability and get disturbed resulting in landslides, rapid erosion etc. Contour trenching a tan interval of one meter on overburdened dump, planting some soil binding plants land draining of water courses in the mined area are recommended for minimizing the destructive effects of mining in watershed areas. 

5. Public participation: People’s involvement including the farmers and tribals  is the key to the success of any watershed management program, particularly the soil and water conservation. 
People’s cooperation as well as participation has to be ensured for the same.

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