Bearing in mind the importance of sustainable development of rainfed/degraded lands, the Department of Land Resources organized a National Watershed Conference in New Delhi on July 14, 2022. The inaugural session was chaired by Shri Giriraj Singh, Union Minister for Rural Development and Panchayati Raj. State Minister for Rural Development and Steel, Shri Faggan Singh Kulaste and Sadhvi Niranjan Jyoti, State Minister for Rural Development and Consumption, Food and Public Distribution and State Minister of Panchayati Raj, Shri Kapil Moreshwar Patil graced the occasion. Secretaries and other senior officials from central government ministries/departments such as Jal Shakti, Rural Development, NITI Aayog, Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Livestock, National Rainfed Area Authority (NRAA) and others attended the conference. The CEO, NARA and other senior officials were also present. Nearly 600 to 700 representatives from all over the country were also present.
The conference comes as Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi raised the country’s commitment to restore degraded land from 21 million hectares to 26 million hectares, while receiving the COP-14 Presidency, UNCCD in 2019.
The Conference focused primarily on three themes:
(i) Production systems (plantation and horticulture)
(ii) Development of the spring basin
(iii) Amrit Sarovar in the Watershed Project areas
On this occasion, the Minister also launched an e-book on the achievements of the Department of Land Resources and GIS 2.0 for the watershed development component of Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana (WDC-PMKSY).
Addressing the Ministers of State and senior officials from the various States, Shri Giriraj Singh called on States to learn and adopt best practices from other States to facilitate cross-learning, dissemination of best practices within the framework of the WDC-PMKSY 2.0 and the strengthening of the focus on doubling the Farmer’s Income through the production system and rejuvenation of water bodies thanks to Amrit Sarovars.
Shri Giriraj Singh said that while working on degraded lands by implementing watershed projects in the States/UTs, efforts should be made to substantially contribute to doubling farmers’ incomes. He emphasized the role of reforestation, horticulture, integrated farming systems, etc. in the project areas of the watersheds so that these activities can prove conducive to increasing the income of the farmers to a large extent. He stressed that States/UTs should make efforts when implementing the projects in the fields to support the beneficiaries so that they can take better care of their land holdings.
For achieving the desired impact in implementing watershed projects, the DoLR had invited Padma Shri winners like Shri Popatrao Pawar (Hiware Bazar model) and Shri Jadav Payeng (Forest man of India) and for covering the role of watershed development, experts like Shri BMS Rathore (former Chief Policy Advisor, ICIMOD) and Shri DS Meena, Addl. Secretary, Govt. from Uttarakhand were invited.
Shri Ajay Tirkey, DoLR Secretary, mentioned in his address that the WDC-PMKSY has the potential to restore rainfed/degraded lands and become all the more indispensable given the growing population and reduced availability of agricultural land per capita. He observed that almost 67% of the rural population is highly dependent on agriculture and that restoring rain-fed/degraded lands could prove a boon for them. He mentioned that activities under the program would help stop land degradation, restore productivity, improve biodiversity, ecological services and many other benefits. The WDC-PMKSY 2.0 would especially deter farmers from leaving their agricultural lands and thus help to reduce the migration that causes the proliferation of forced/unplanned urbanization and leads to other related avoidable consequences.
The bugle call of the Amrit Sarovar Mission was given by Prime Minister Modi. WDC-PMKSY 2.0 has immense potential to create Amrit Sarovars in the WDC-PMKSY 2.0 project areas and therefore States/UTs were urged to take appropriate initiative.
Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana Watershed Development Component (WDC-PMKSY)
The Department of Land Resources (DoLR) has been mandated by the Government of India to implement a centrally sponsored program namely the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchayee Yojana Watershed Development Component (WDC-PMKSY).
The DoLR has financially supported 6,382 state/UT watershed projects with a target of 29.57 million hectares under the WDC-PMKSY 1.0 which was successfully concluded in March 2022. Completion reports and end-of-project reports are received at DoLR and the results are reported are amazing:
increase in the water table up to 3 m,
increase in cultivated area by up to 30%,
increase in the annual income of farmers up to 70.13%,
increase in milk production by up to 40% and
increase in cultivation intensity up to 18.3%.
So far, 5693 projects have been reported as completed by States/UTs covering an area of 27.10 million hectares. Meanwhile, the DoLR in December 2021 also rolled out WDC-PMKSY 2.0 with a central allocation of Rs.8134 crore and a physical target of 4.95 million hectares. A total of 1099 projects have already been sanctioned under WDC 2.0. As required by the Department, with assistance from the National Rainfed Area Authority (NRAA), the DoLR revised the existing guidelines to make them more inclusive, science-based, and explicitly geared toward production systems.
Springshed development under WDC-PMKSY 2.0
As part of WDC-PMKSY 2.0, the development of Springshed has been incorporated as a new activity in the watershed project areas. This was based on the recommendation of NITI Aayog who in collaboration with ICIMOD published a report in 2017-2018 showing that almost 50% of the 4-5 million springs in India are either dried up or over about to dry up. The development of watersheds in mountainous regions would make it possible to meet the challenges of ecological, economic and biodiversity security in the country.
WDC-PMKSY 2.0 is also important because Springshed development has been integrated as one of the new activities. This could be of paramount importance especially for the Himalayan States/UTs and other mountainous regions of the country which are of great strategic, ecological, economic and socio-political importance. Ironically, the Himalayan/UT states get a lot of rain during the monsoon season, but during the lean season they face a serious problem of drinking water shortage. Conversely, the fragile landscape of the Himalayas also very frequently encounters problems of ecological degradation and landslides. By rejuvenating springs in mountainous regions under the WDC-PMKSY 2.0 project areas, all states/UTs could benefit immensely.
The DoLR has taken the initiative to capitalize on the potential of WDC-PMKSY 2.0 and significantly contribute to doubling farmers’ incomes, Nationally Determined Contributions, Land Degradation Neutrality and Sustainable Development Goals , etc., thus transforming India.
The Government of India’s National Integrated Watershed Management Program (currently WDC-PMKSY) is the second largest watershed program in the world after China (World Bank report, July 2014).
Shri Nagendra Nath Sinha, Secretary, Ministry of Rural Development, Additional Chief Secretary/Principal Secretary/Secretary of Catchment Project Implementing Department of State Governments/UT attended the workshop.
(With GDP entries)