[Solved] Elaborate the impact of National Watershed Project in increasing agricultural production from water stressed areas (UPSC GS-3 Mains 2019)

The project aims to fulfil the watershed component of the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMSKY) to reduce surface runoff of rainwater, increase groundwater levels and better water availability in rainfed areas. This will contribute to higher agricultural production even in water-stressed areas.

 Impact of National Watershed Project in increasing agricultural production in water-stressed areas.

  • It was launched for achieving the major objectives of the Watershed Component of the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayi Yojana (PMKSY) and for ensuring access to irrigation to every farm (Har Khet Ko Pani) and efficient use of water (Per Drop More Crop)
  • It will bring about institutional changes in watershed and rainfed agricultural management practices in India.
  • It will help to build systems that ensure watershed programmes and rainfed irrigation management practices are better focused, and more coordinated, and have quantifiable results.
  • It will devise strategies for the sustainability of improved watershed. management practices in programme areas, even after the withdrawal of project support.
  • The watershed project will lead to reducing surface runoff of rainwater.
  • It will increase recharge of ground water.
  • It will result in better availability in rainfed areas resulting in incremental rainfed agriculture productivity.
  • It will also translate into enhanced milk yields.
  • It will increase cropping intensity in such areas through better convergence of related programmes in project areas.
  • Watershed development projects are area development programme and all people living in the project area will be benefitted

 Case study:

 – Drought in India has had detrimental impact since many centuries and continues to be.

 Nearly 9 million farmers of Maharashtra were impacted by the drought in 2016.

 – Drought situation arises due to inadequate and delayed rain as well as lack of arrangements to harvest rainwater.

 Paani Foundation is an NGO working towards making Maharashtra drought-free with

 Satyamev Jayate water cup.

 – Water Cup is a competition between different villages, village that does maximum work for watershed management and water conservation wins. Water cup has brought forth a

 revolution by motivating thousands of volunteers to make Maharashtra a drought free state.

 – One such village facing drought situation is Ambale in Purandar taluka.

  • Watershed project involves conservation, regeneration and judicious use of all the resources like land, water, plants, animals and humans within the watershed area.
  • The National Watershed Project also known as Neeranchal National Watershed Project is a World Bank assisted watershed management project.
  • The objective of this project is to support Integrated Watershed Management Program (IWMP) through technical assistance to improve incremental conservation outcomes for the natural resources including water, soil and forests while enhancing agricultural yields in a sustainable manner for farming communities.
  • Water-stressed regions of India such as Northwest India, Vidarbha region of Maharashtra etc. are prone to drought and water scarcity thus affecting the agricultural production in the regions.
  • The National Watershed Project has the potential in increasing agricultural production in these regions: The project has led in reduction of surface runoff thus increasing groundwater recharge, soil moisture and better availability of water in water-stressed areas. It also helps farmers to better manage surface and groundwater resources.
  • This has resulted in incremental agriculture productivity and increased cropping intensity through optimum utilization of natural resources like land, water, vegetation etc.
  • For example, a watershed project in Bangaru, Telangana has increased crop yields and cropping intensity significantly. This is also accompanied by a shift towards higher-value crops especially horticultural crops.
  • It will also help to mitigate the adverse effects of drought and prevent further ecological degradation and support farmers in water-stressed areas to adapt to climatic change and ensuring improved livelihoods for people.
  • It helps in the restoration of ecological balance in the degraded and fragile water-stressed areas by increasing vegetative cover and decrease soil erosion through afforestation and crop plantation.
  • People’s involvement including the farmers and tribal is the key to the success of any watershed management program, particularly the soil and water conservation. Successful watershed management has been done at Sukhomajri, Panchkula and Haryana through active participation of the local people.

 Neeranchal National Watershed Project:

 Watershed development is critical to India’s development as vast stretches of agricultural land are in rain-fed regions, characterized by extensive land degradation, low rainfall, reduced agricultural productivity, and higher rates of poverty.

 The Neeranchal national watershed project is a World Bank assisted project aims to fulfil the watershed component of the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMSKY).

 Neeranchal is primarily designed to address the following concerns:

 bring about institutional changes in watershed and rainfed agricultural management practices in India, build systems that ensure watershed programmes and rainfed irrigation management practices are better focused, and more coordinated, and have quantifiable results, devise strategies for the sustainability of improved watershed management practices in programme areas, even after the withdrawal of project support, through the watershed plus approach, support improved equity, livelihoods, and incomes through forwarding linkages, on a platform of inclusiveness and local participation.

Impact of the National Watershed Project in increasing agricultural production from water-stressed areas:

The project has helped farmers adopt new soil, water and crop management techniques to increase vegetative cover, reduce soil erosion, and improve agricultural yields.

 It has facilitated access to real time weather forecasts and help farmers adopt climate-smart agricultural practices to mitigate climate change impacts.

 It has also improved rural livelihoods through training, better extension services, and strengthened forward linkages to markets.

 Efficient watershed management under the NWP has helped increase agricultural production in rain-fed areas, leading to better use of scarce water resources and raise household incomes of farmers.

 Transformation of dry patch of land to vibrant farms and plantation. For example, Thummachennupalle watershed in Chittoor district transformed into a community-owned orchard after NABARD implemented Neeranchal.

 A cheap and sustainable way to utilize the water of rivers and rivulets through the construction of check dams are a novel way to bridge the water requirement in tainted areas like Rajasthan, Latur.

 Overall improvement of the area with waste management, pollution prevention and recycling efforts has led to the holistic development of the region associated.

 This is an inclusive concept wherein decentralization, community participation and holistic approach are being applied in the areas of watershed management region to eliminate the inter-regional differences, to enhance food and nutrition security and to enhance land and water resource management.

Reasons for unsatisfactory performance:

  • Non-release of funds and delay in appointment of experts for institution and capacity building Lack of participation of communities.
  • Building stronger capacities and systems to plan, implement, monitor and post-project sustainability of local institutions and assets.
  • In many cases, malfunction and cases of corruption are not reported properly.
  • When the groundwater table increases as a result of watershed management projects, farmers in the area go for water-intensive crops like paddy and sugarcane and drain it again.
  • Sustainable watershed management through people’s participation is a complex process as its ultimate goal is socio-economic and social-development of the people living in the watershed area. Systematic planning, project designing, implementation and capacity building of locals for future sustenance of the indigenous are the key factors for success.
  • Better coordination among various agencies such as MGNREGA, agriculture ministry and water ministry can bring convergence on the ground, increasing the impact of the project, in line with the Mihir Shah committee recommendations.

Role of NWP in increasing agricultural output  Multiple cropping season

  • The water availability through irrigation measures like canals, nullahs etc have ensured that farmers are able to sow crops in the dry season as well. They no longer have to be dependent on rainfall for agriculture.
  • Ex: Tamil Nadu farmers can grow three crops in a year mainly due to extensive canal irrigation.
  • Timely water availability
  • The main reason for failure of crops is that there is non-availability of water during the peak water requirement period due to lack of rainfall. New techniques ensure that water is available on demand during requirement.
  • Ex: South  Karnataka farmers receiving water in canals during sugarcane watering time.
  • Effective water utilization
  • Large amount of rain  water in wasted without proper utilization during seasonal rainfall. Under NWP, water obtained during rainfall is stored in ponds, lakes etc so that they can be utilised later.
  • Ex: Check dams benefitting farmers of Bundelkhand.
  • Recharging of ground water
  • Since ground water in recharged effectively under this project, small farmers can irrigate their fields through ground water sources. This will supplement their income during lean season.
  • Ex: Farmers in Malwa using water from wells to irrigate their crops.

Conclusion

  However, despite these successes, a number of challenges remain for watershed development to achieve better outcomes, including enhanced participation of communities, building stronger capacities and systems to plan, implement, monitor and post-project sustainability of local institutions and assets. These challenges, if not resolved, can result in implementation delays, slow disbursements and benefits.

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