16. Sustainable Management of Natural Resources | Class 10 CBSE | Web Notes | Part 3: Water for All



Water is a basic need for all terrestrial forms of life.

Besides rainfall patterns, other factors such as human intervention influence the water availability.

Rain falls in India are largely due to the monsoons that occur in a few months. But sustaining underground water is failed due to the loss of vegetation cover, diversion for high water demanding crops, and pollution from industrial effluents and urban wastes.

Local people had managed local irrigation methods like dams, tanks & canals for agriculture and daily needs. The use of this stored water was strictly regulated.

When the British arrived, they implemented large-scale projects – large dams & canals. It was carried on after independence and neglected local irrigation methods. The government also took over the administration of these systems. Thus, local people lost the control over the local water sources.

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.

Canal systems from dams can transfer water over great distances. E.g., the Indira Gandhi Canal in Rajasthan. However, mismanagement of the water caused unequal distribution of water, thus people close to the source grow water intensive crops like sugarcane and rice while people farther downstream do not get any water.

Narmada Bachao Andolan (‘Save the Narmada Movement’) was a protest raising the height of Sardar Sarovar Dam on the river Narmada.

Criticisms about large dams address 3 problems:

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.

Water Harvesting

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.

Khadins, tanks & nadis in Rajasthan, bandharas & tals in Maharashtra, bundhis in Madhya Pradesh & Uttar Pradesh, ahars & pynes in Bihar, kulhs in Himachal Pradesh, ponds in the Kandi belt of Jammu region, and eris (tanks) in Tamil Nadu, surangams in Kerala, and kattas in Karnataka are some of the ancient water-harvesting structures still in use.

Giving people control over their local water resources reduces mismanagement and over-exploitation.

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.

Advantages of water stored in the ground:

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.

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