SUSTAINABLE MANAGEMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES
Kulhs is a local system of canal irrigation in Himachal Pradesh. The water in the streams was diverted into man-made channels to supply to many villages down the hillside. During the planting season, water was first used by the village farthest away from the source of the kulh, then by villages progressively higher up. Kulhs were managed by 2-3 people. In addition to irrigation, water from kulhs also percolated into the soil and fed springs. After the kulhs were taken over by Irrigation Department, most of them became defunct.
Large dams ensure the storage of adequate water for irrigation and generating electricity.
1. Social problems: It displaces many peasants & tribals without enough compensation or rehabilitation. The oustees of the Tawa Dam built in 1970s are still fighting for the promised benefits.
2. Economic problems: Dams use huge public money but no proportionate benefits.
3. Environmental problems: Deforestation and the loss of biodiversity.
Watershed management emphasises scientific soil and water conservation to increase the biomass production. The aim is to develop primary resources of land and water, to produce secondary resources of plants and animals without ecological imbalance.
Benefits of Watershed management:
o Increases production and income of the community.
o Mitigates droughts and floods.
o Increases life of the downstream dam and reservoirs.
Various organisations work on rejuvenating ancient systems of water harvesting as an alternative to the mega-projects like dams. These communities use many indigenous water-saving methods. E.g. dug small pits & lakes, make simple watershed systems, small earthen dams, construct dykes, sand & limestone reservoirs, rooftop water-collecting units. This has recharged groundwater levels and brought rivers back to life.
In largely level terrain, the water harvesting structures are mainly crescent shaped embankments or low, straight concrete-and-rubble “check dams” built across seasonally flooded gullies. Monsoon rains fill ponds behind the structures. Their main purpose is not to hold surface water but to recharge the ground water.
o It does not evaporate, but spreads out to recharge wells and provides moisture for vegetation.
o It does not provide breeding grounds for mosquitoes.
o It is relatively protected from contamination by human and animal waste.
In two decades of efforts of Dr. Rajendra Singh (India’s “waterman”), 8,600 johads and other structures to collect water have been built in Rajasthan, and Water had been brought back to 1,000 villages across the state. In 2015, he won the Stockholm Water Prize. It is the international award for contribution to the conservation and protection of water resources.