Watershed Management in South Asia: A Synoptic Review
Watershed management (WSM) is the most widely adopted technology in developed as well as developing countries due to its suitability across climatic conditions. Watershed technology is suitable to protect and enhance soil fertility, which is deteriorating at an alarming rate with agricultural intensification in high as well as low rain fall regions. Of late, WSM is considered as an effective poverty alleviation intervention in the rain fed regions in countries like India. This paper aims at providing a basic watershed policy and implementation framework based on a critical review of experiences of WSM initiatives across South Asia. The purpose is to provide cross learnings within south Asia and other developing countries (especially Africa) that are embarking on WSM in recent years. Countries in the region accord differential policy priority and are at different levels of institutional arrangements for implementing WSM programmes. The implementation of watershed interventions is neither scientific nor comprehensive in all the countries limiting the effectiveness (impacts). Implementation of the programmes for enhancing the livelihoods of the communities need to strengthen both technical and institutional aspects. While countries like India and Nepal are yet to strengthen the technical aspects in terms of integrating hydrogeology and biophysical aspects into watershed design, others need to look at these aspects as they move towards strengthening the watershed institutions. Another important challenge in all the countries is regarding the distribution of benefits. Due to the existing property rights in land and water resources coupled with the agrarian structure and uneven distribution and geometry of aquifers access to sub-surface water resources is unevenly distributed across households. Though most of the countries are moving towards incorporating livelihoods components in order to ensure benefits to all sections of the community, not much is done in terms of addressing the equity aspects of WSM.