Integrated Watershed Development Programme: Baif Experience
The balanced ecosystem and human system are vital indicators of a sustainable
environment and better quality of human life. In rural areas, livelihood and natural
resources such as land, water, vegetation and livestock are inter-linked. India’s national
economy is dependent on agriculture and the magnificence of its natural resources is
However, degradation of the natural resources due to increasing biotic pressure on the
fragile eco-system with breakdown of traditional local management institutions is
threatening the entire human population.
Watershed is a geo-hydrological unit comprised of all land and water within the confines
of a drainage divide. Essentially a watershed is all the land and water area, which
contributes runoff to a common point. It is a land area that captures rainfall and conveys
the overland flow and runoff to an outlet in the main flow channel. It is a topographically
delineated area draining into a single channel. A watershed may be nearly flat or may
include hillocks, hills or mountains. Each and every water and land area is a part of one
watershed or other. Frequently the following distinction is being made to indicate the size
of a watershed: micro watershed, sub watershed, watershed, catchment and river basin in
order of increasing size. Generally any watershed can be sub-divided into sub-watersheds
etc. The smallest watershed in the context of agricultural hydrology may be the field or
plot. Further more within the context of watershed management, watershed may be
defined as the ecosystem within the confines of a drainage divide.
Watershed Development and Management is defined as the integrated use, regulation and
development of water and land resources of a watershed to accomplish sustainable use of
land, water and vegetables for the benefit of its dependents. The emphasis is on soil and
2. Need of Watershed Development and Management
As 70% of our cultivated land fall under the rain-fed areas, Watershed Management is
one of the critical factors for improving agricultural production. The natural resource
base on which existence of living beings depend-soil, water and vegetation is under
degradation. Most of the arid and semi-arid regions have concentrations of eroded and
degraded natural resources. Loss of vegetal cover, followed by soil degradation through
erosion, has resulted in lands lacking in water as well as solid nutrients. In India out of a
total geographical area of 329 million hectares, 57% of the area is suffering from soil
degradation as a result of over-population, harsh climate condition, over exploitation,
improper use of soil resources, deforestation etc.
Restoring ecological balance and increasing productivity in such region necessitate
undertaking all developmental activities on a watershed basis. Depletion of Common
Property Resources (CPRs) is again at the core of the problem. CPRs are collectively
managed resources on non-arable land including community forests, grazing lands and
ponds, village tanks and rivers. Generally, the poorer section of rural households depends
much more on fuel, fodder and food items from CPRs. Depletion of CPRs including
declining area and productivity has been widely observed. CPRs area has declined from
31 to 55% by 1982-86 as a result of large-scale privatisation. On site and offsite
environmental degradation and depletion of soil and water resources is widespread as a
result of over exploitation of remaining of CPRs.
Land and Water resources of India
Geographical Area 329 million ha
Flood Prone Area 40 million ha
Total Cultivable Land Area 184 million ha
Net Irrigated Area 50 million ha
Ultimate irrigation Potential 140 million ha
Natural runoff (Surface Water 1869 Cubic Km
Estimated Utilizable Surface 690 Cubic Km
Groundwater resources 432 Cubic Km
Available groundwater Resource 361 Cubic Km
Net Utilizable Groundwater 325 Cubic Km
Resource for Irrigation
In India, agriculture is the predominant occupation and about 64% of the working
population depends upon it for their livelihood. Irrigation facilities created so far are less
than the potential and the total net sown area is only 36%. As such, a large portion of
agricultural land depends upon the monsoon. They contribute about 42% of country's
total food grain output. The majority of small and marginal farmer and landless depend
on agriculture, especially in the dry region. Further because of soil erosion, deforestation,
over cutting of vegetation, overgrazing, unscientific methods of cultivation, a large area
of land has been rendered barren. About 25% of agricultural land is degraded thus the
porosity of Indian Agriculture lies in the development of dry and degraded land.
3. Watershed Development Programme in India
Conservation of water and checking soil erosion is central to the attainment of economic
as well as financial sustainability of dry land and agriculture. Integrated watershed
development programme is the major policy instrument for achieving this goal. The
importance of watershed development as a strategy of agricultural and overall rural
development in rainfed areas has been recognized in India for the past several decades. It
dates back to the establishment of four dry farming research stations at Rohtak, Sholapur,
Hyderabad and Bellary in early 30's.
Watershed Development Programmes which has been increasingly emphasized for
dryland plain region in India, is a manifestation of the shifting priorities in agricultural
sector which till recently had concentrated mainly on crops and regions with assured
irrigation. Some of the points of development to be kept in mind are:
Growth of yield among irrigated crops and regions attained during the initial
phase of the green revolution has come to some kind of a halt. Hence the future
growth of agricultural production will have to increasingly come from dryland
region at least till another flux of large-scale investment in irrigation takes place.
Frequent failure of rainfall especially since 1980's has resulted into highly
fluctuating productivity in dry land region making at difficult to sustain the
population on farming system alone.
The immediate solution of tapping groundwater has also reached alarming levels
of depletion in many parts of the dry land region.
With increasing human and livestock population with the uncertain crop yield has
reduced availability of the common property resources (CPRs) and the biomass.
Importance has been given to dry farming in India, esp. since the mid 1980 in order to
combat the limited natural sources of water and to protect the land from degradation,
conserve rainwater and improve the general economic condition of dry land farmers.
In India, watershed development programme is taken up under various programmes
launched by the Government of India. The Drought Prone Area Programme (DPAP) and
Desert Development Programme (DDP), adopted watershed approach in 1987. The
Integrated Watershed Development Board, National Watershed Programme in Rainfed
Areas (NWPRA) under Ministry of Agriculture and Integrated Wastelands Development
Programme in 1996 under Ministry of Rural Development and Employment. At present,
on-going 4 Central schemes IWDP,DPAP,DDP and NWDPRA have been merged into a
new scheme called Bhoomi Vikas Yojana under a common guideline (Guideline for
Watershed Development, 1995 and revised in 2001) which envisages bottom-up
approach. The main aim is to manage the land and water resources for sustained
production. The watershed Development Programmes like DDP, Drought-Prone-Area-
Programme (DPAP) and Integrated Wasteland Development Programme (IWDP) are
implemented by the Zilla Panchayats through Watershed Associations. A Project
Implementing Agency can be a Government Department or NGO.
Both the Centre and State Governments have been making continuous and constant
efforts to improve the living standards of rainfed farmers through planned programmes.
These programmes were implemented by both Government Organisation (GOs) and Non-
Government Organisations (NGOs). The focus is on giving technical support in
watershed projects, mapping of project areas design and implementation guidelines for
soil and water conservation structure like bunding, check dams, gully plugs, desiltation of
tanks etc. The detailed planning and design for all soil and water conservation measures
is done with the consultation of each subject matter specialist such as engineer, forester,
agronomist, social scientist, etc, in the watershed development team. The Government of
India has fixed the cost norm of watershed development, which is about Rs 6000/ha.
4. BAIF’s Integrated Watershed Development Approach
BAIF Development Research Foundation, Pune launched its integrated watershed
development programme in various parts of the country in the year 1990 with the
objective of developing models of sustainable development in resource degraded areas.
Through its expert manpower, applied research and field experience in resource
management and people's participation, BAIF has been working in watershed
development with the following objectives:
Promote appropriate technologies for efficient and sustainable use of rainwater.
Conservation of soil and improve the land productivity
Regenerate the vegetation cover on denuded wastelands, promote tree based
farming systems and sustainable agriculture.
Improve Livestock Productivity
Bring the underprivileged sections of society in to the mainstream
Equip rural communities for sustainable management of the natural resources.
Create year round self-employment opportunities within the village.
These objectives shall lead to development of replicable region specific models of
improved quality of life with sustainable management of natural resources. It should
finally reduce the poverty of the rural people.
BAIF’s approach emphasizes convergence of various priority sectors of rural villagers
into a micro watershed for sustainable development of the rural poor.
5. Project Areas
At present, the projects are being implemented in 31 districts in 6 states of India covering
131190 ha land spread over 260 micro-watersheds in about 360 villages. Projects are
mainly located in drought prone areas of degraded natural resources with diverse agro-
climatic conditions. Most of the communities in the areas are socio-economically
backward. The areas covered in different parts of the country are given below:
Table: Programme Coverage
State District Area No. of Micro- Funding
Covered watersheds Source
Gujarat Ahmedabad, Amreli, 73,500 170 NWDP/
Bhavnagar, Bharuch, IWDP/
Junagadh, Narmada, DRDA
Surat 544 1 CEC
Maharashtra Ahmednagar 3,833 5 IGWDP
Latur 500 1 DANIDA
Thane 367 1 CEC
Madhya Guna, Vidisha, Rajgarh, 39,600 63 RGWM
Uttar Kanpur Dehat 835 2 ICEF
Pradesh Chitrakut 1463 2 WDF
Hamirpur 3000 4 WDF
Rajasthan Bundi 3286 2 ICEF
Karnataka Hassan 1500 1 ICEF
Tumkur 562 1 CEC
1000 2 ICEF
Hassan 1200 5 NWDP
6. Activities and Strategy
BAIF is working in diverse agro-climatic, geographical and geo-hydrological situations.
Hence the approach for technical interventions is different in different regions although
the approach for implementation is the same.
Development of vegetation cover, surface water storage systems are predominant
activities in hilly terrain with shallow top soil while ground water recharge measures are
main the activities in the plains.
The micro-watershed development works are executed following the concept of Ridge -
to - Valley with the active participation of the local community.
6.1 In-situ Conservation Measures
The upper catchments of watershed with the wastelands are treated with contour trenches,
recharge pits and development of vegetation cover. Afforestation and Silvipature
development on wastelands have been widely adopted by the people.
In most of the projects, farm ponds have been promoted for recharging the water in the
area of favourable private landowners. In the areas with deep pervious subsurface media,
mainly in Gujarat area, recharging of open wells has been the focus. Both these measures
are adopted for directing the surplus rainwater into sub-surface. Runoff is diverted with
the field bunding. Farm ponds /village ponds constructed so far in different watersheds
total 3507. During 1997 to 2002 a farm pond network approach for watershed
development has been developed. About 1581 open wells are being used as recharge
sources in various watershed locations.
6.2 Silvipasture and Afforestation
This includes developing silvipasture and forestry on village common lands and
wastelands owned by farmers. Soil and water conservation measures like trenching and
bunding adopted along to check rainwater and develop a zero runoff model. The
Silvipasture help to conserve the natural resources and increase in biodiversity. Grasses
such as stylo hemata, Dhaman and others those are feasible in the region for improved
fodder and increase in income.
The main aim of this component is improving vegetative cover, as well as increase fuel
and fodder availability for use by and for the community. The species to be planted are to
be selected as per the needs of the community and site suitability.
Charagah committees including both men and women are formed to manage and
maintain the plantations.
6.3 Drainage Line Treatment
The treatments on natural drainages in a watershed start from the beginning of a small
gully by plugging it to stop erosion using locally available materials such as stone, soil,
brush wood or live hedge. The total number of gully plugs is about 20000. In the middle
reaches to stop erosion, reduce runoff velocity and recharge the ground water, series of
situation specific measures like dry stone bunds, earthen checkbunds, gabions are
constructed. The total numbers of gabion structures constructed are 9724.
In lower reaches of catchments, runoff water and the water percolated from area is
harvested in streams. The water harvesting measures include both the conventional
structures such as Masonry Checkdam, Earthen Nalla Bunding and Percolation Tank and
innovative structures like Ferrocement Gabion and Underground Bandhara. The total
number of water harvesting structures constructed so far is 914.
6.4 Water Supply and Sanitation
The activities promoted for drinking water supply include roof water harvesting using
ferrocement, spring development; well development, water storage dams and hand pump
installations. Kitchen waste recycling, ferrocement latrines, bathing platforms in the rural
areas are the main activities. Communities are motivated to maintain the hygienic
conditions in and around the water sources.
6.5 Sustainable Agriculture
Sustainable agriculture practices are promoted in all the watersheds, which mainly
include tree based farming, horticulture, cash crops, use of biofertilisers, etc.
Development of pasture on village common lands and improved livestock management
are also the primary activities.
This is one of prime component in BAIF’s activities of development. It includes
conservation of local breed and improved variety of cattle development through artificial
insemination. Along with this stall-feeding is encouraged to protect the natural
ecosystem. Coupled with improvement in fodder and water availability, livestock
becomes important source of income to rural poor.
6.7 Energy Conservation & Recycling
Energy conservation devices are promoted to decrease the pressure on forests and trees in
farmlnds for fuelwood consumption. The energy conservation devices include improved
chullas, wood stoves, biogas installation, pressure cookers etc.
The practices of vermicompost, NADEP compost and pit compost for increased use of
organic fertilizers are also focused on.
In the watershed project of Hunasekatte village in Hassan district of Karnataka, a Community
Biogas plant has been established in 1997 for power generation. Fifty cubic meter capacity plant
generates electricity of 7.5 KVA. The electricity produced is supplied to 50 households and it also
runs a drinking water supply pump. Villagers contribute the dung daily and a women’s SHG
management of plant collects Rs. 20/- per household towards electricity and service charges. In
addition to management of plant SHG also raises nursery on Panchayat land near the biogas plant
and earn profit of about Rs.20000 to Rs.25000 annually. Vermicomposting is the other activity of
7. People's Participation
The key to the success of the project and its sustainability is people's participation. For
achieving the desired participation of people, role of community organisations and/or
community groups is crucial. People play an active role right from project design up to
project maintenance. BAIF's watershed programme follows the chain of actions starting
with rapport building with people, PRA exercises, participatory planning, designing,
building community organisations, participatory implementation and monitoring. Entry
point activities also play a very crucial role in developing rapport with the watershed
community. Capacity building is a continuous process from the beginning to the end.
The community organisations are mainly of the following form: (a) village level
watershed development group/committee (b) Self Help Groups of men and women both
(c) team/group of village technicians (d) User Groups of any productive activity or asset
giving benefit to certain group and (e) a federation of different groups.
VWC: Village Watershed Committee WUG: Water User Group
SHG: Self Help Group
In general, the approach is, each participating family is part of at least one of the group.
Thus the membership in the committee/group is for all. However if the strength of the
group exceeds the operative unit, then there may be two alternatives viz. to split the
group or to select the representatives for management of the group from the existing
members. Initially the village community members select the representatives of the
group. Later, after seeing the quality and utility of representatives, the local field officer
may reorganise the representative body. Adequate representation of women, different
castes and tribes, landless, members of local bodies like Panchayat, etc. is ensured.
8. Social and Gender Equity
Within the project design itself, the arrangements are made to reach the maximum
benefits to traditionally weaker sections especially economically backward class, women
and landless. The area-based interventions cover the entire range of the population.
However, the individual resource inputs such as providing capital for running micro-
enterprises, developing the orchards in the farmlands, rights for non-consumptive use of
surface water storages are provided to the weaker groups. The decentralized approach of
water resource development is adopted to make sure that the benefits reach to people on
the upper and middle reaches of the catchment.
People’s organizations have representatives from weaker groups. Measures have been
taken to reduce the workload of women and involve them in the mainstream project
activities. In addition women’s Self Help Groups are promoted in each project village.
Various micro-enterprises are promoted to make them financially empowered. The
women's workload is considerably reduced due to easy access to safe drinking water
sources, promotion of firewood plantations and inculcating the use of energy efficient
cooking devices. Efforts are taken to build the capacity of women and men through
training and exposure visits to developed areas. All this leads to active participation of
women in the watershed development projects. Special efforts have been made to reduce
gender gap in the projects.
9. Use of remote Sensing and GIS
BAIF is using Remote Sensing and GIS platform in Watershed Development from
implementation phase. It Provide scientific inputs for planning, monitoring, management
and impact assessment on natural resource development, environment, infrastructure
10. Programme Outcome
The programme has demonstrated unprecedented effects on the social, economical and
the ecological issues. Below is a list of some outcomes in about 262 villages.
Increase In surface and Ground water Availability
Second crop area has increased by 20-25% over the baseline situation.
Year round access to safe drinking water.
The survey in Saurashtra region of Gujarat shows that there is about 50%
increase in yield of crops mainly groundnut and cotton. In Rajasthan area, crop
yield has doubled.
Over 6000 families are using energy saving devices and waste water recycling
and most of the villagers acquired skills in soil and water conservation practices.
Generation of gainful self-employment in the watersheds.
Greater awareness for conservation of natural resources
Agro-based small scale income generation activities are rapidly emerging.
Women along with men are taking part in community level decision making
Over 1000 people’s institutions are functional in the watershed areas.
Each project village has contributed lakhs of rupees to village level organizations
for maintenance of common assets and further developments.
Through its programme, BAIF has developed several innovative approaches for
watershed development in different regions, which have become highly replicable. Below
are some of such approaches / measures:
Farm Pond Network
A network of farm pond has been developed in a project in Hassan district of
Karnataka. The network captures entire runoff water, allows water to flow across
the slope and improves the surface and ground water availability. The dimensions
of ponds vary from 20’x20’x10’ to 30’x30’x10’ (6m x 6m x 3m to 9m x 9m x
3m). Each pond has an inlet chamber to trap the silt and outlet for allowing excess
water to flow out, which then joins the next pond in the chain. Stone pitching is
provided at inlet and outlet channels to protect them from scouring. The excess
water from the first pond goes to second and from second to the subsequent one in
the chain. In this manner, the entire runoff water is harvested in the area itself
through the web of ponds. In this watershed area one pond for 2 ha of area is
sufficient to harvest entire rainwater.
In addition to ponds, small gullies have been treated with gully plugs and water-
harvesting structures have been constructed in rivulets.
In the hot semi arid region of Rajasthan, a drought combating approach has been
developed through management of common and private land and rainwater
conservation with traditional and modern techniques.
Revival of Traditional Structure
The traditional structure revived and built under the BAIF-ICEF project, the cement dam with
earthen banking and spillway has a length of 215 metres, width of 2.5 metres and height of 5
metres above the ground.
Built on the site of a highly damaged structure that had been built in the days of princely rule,
the dam has created a reservoir with storage capacity of 13 ha metres of water, which has
made a fundamental difference in the water availability situation in Thana.
Says Narayansinghji Rajput, one of the farmers who spearheaded the community effort for the
construction of the dam, “The reservoir has recharged wells of around 80 families
downstream. For the first time in years, we have been able to get water from the village’s
piped water scheme through an overhead tank. Earlier, there was no groundwater to pump up
and fill the tank. For around 15 years before the construction of this dam, the situation in our
village was such that we wouldn’t even follow the normal custom of offering water to a
visitor. That was how the severe the problem was. Today, we have around half a dozen paddy
nurseries in this area.”
Construction of the dam, the largest ever community project undertaken in Thana, brought the
entire village together. Recalls Narayansinghji, “For 3-4 months, all caste and other
distinctions were forgotten. Rajputs, Brahmins, Malis and everyone else worked together and
contributed in any way they could. The dam is being ably managed by a local committee.
It is called Bhimsagar, after the legendary Maharabharata character known for his sheer size,
and it has changed the profile of Thana village in many ways.
In drainage course, favorable conditions were observed for storing water
underground. Sandy soil with about 1-2 m depth underlained by clay, narrow
nalla width and gentle slope of bed with clayey banks made the structure highly
successful. Six structures were constructed in series. The cost per structure ranges
from Rs. 2000 to Rs. 3000. A trench of 1-1.5 m was refilled with clay soil with
compaction. This helped store water below surface & recharged the wells in the
vicinity. In the area of Bundi district where not a single drop of water is visible
in summer, the storage area of UGB had water just below 2-3 feet in the month of
Ravine Land Reclamation
In Uttar Pradesh Ravine Land Reclamation approach with equitable water
utilization has been development. Ravine lands form the major part of the lands
here. These ravines are developed due to the continuous flooding of the Yamuna,
which passes by the watershed area and the Sengur part of the watershed.
Ravine Lands of the project area have been reclaimed with following treatment
Development of vegetation cover in deep ravine area.
Contour bunding across the slopes to conserve the rainwater in situ and
stop soil erosion, The bunds have beed protected by developing grass
Gully control using earthen bunds/plugs with vegetation cover on htem.
Masonry and composite checkdam for water harvesting and rechharge.
Each individual was not able to invest a huge amount for drilling a bore well and
installing an oil pump. Looking at this, the project initiated with an idea of
forming groups for irrigation. Till date there are 14 bore well groups area formed.
Well recharging technique has been developed and used extensively in Saurashtra
region of Gujarat.
In the years, BAIF expects a number of self sufficient and environmentally sound villages
in the project area.
11. Linkages and Policy Influence
BAIF has been nominated as member of state and district level committees of watershed
development programme in the states of Karnataka, Uttar Pradesh and Gujarat. BAIF
Maharashtra (MITTRA) is nominated as Mother NGO for watershed development
activities in Thane & Nashik district of Maharashtra. BAIF has also shared its
experiences with the Planning Commission India. Through the demonstration of
appropriate approaches and representation in different committees BAIF has been able to
influence the policies of watershed development at various level.
12. Research and Dissemination
BAIF's strength is its strong scientific base for development programmes. Keeping that
as the focus, a research project was implemented during 1992-96 in Maharashtra, to
develop the methodologies for conjunctive use of surface and ground water resources.
The methodologies and appropriate technologies developed for soil and water
conservation and use during the project have been adapted in different projects.
Continuous data is being generated for studying the effect and impact of different
measures adopted in all watershed areas. A research report on 'Conjunctive Use of Water
Resources in Deccan Trap (India)' has been published. A research was carried out on
“Integrating watershed development and water supply-sanitation” in five states. The
results have been documented and circulated widely. The outcomes of research, impacts
of projects and the experience of the BAIF professionals has resulted in excellent
publications and audio-visuals on watershed for project holders.
The results are also disseminated through various workshops, conferences and training
List of References for further reading:
G.G. Sohani, B. K. Kakade et.al.; Conjunctive Use of water resources in Deccan Trap
B.K. Kakade; Soil and Water Conservation Structures in Watershed Development
B.K. Kakade, G.S. Neelam, K.J.Petare; Revival of Rivulets through Fram Pond Based
B.K. Kakade, H.S. Kulkarni K.J.Petare; G.S. Neelam, A Marathe “Integrated
Drinking water Management, Impact of Watershed Development in different
Geohydrological and Socio-economic situations”
G.G. Sohani; Shaping Your Land
B.K. Kakade, N.G. Hegde; “Integrated Watershed Development: BAIF Approach” a
paper in ‘Integrated Rural Development for Sustainable Livelihood’.
S. Kanse, K.J. Petare B.K. Kakade and G.S. Neelam “Watershed Management using
GIS based Land Information System – Adihalli –Mylanhalli Watershed”