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                                   The Sukhomajri - Water Shed Management Project : A Success Story of Participatory Approach
 
Sukhomajri, a small hamlet of about one hundred families with average land holding of 0.57 ha, is located in the foothills of Shivaliks in Panchkula district of Haryana. It is at a distance

of about thirty kilometers by road to the north-east of Chandigarh. A successful experience of participatory natural resource management, which has been proved to be conducive for bringing about socio-economic and cultural transformation of the village community, has been initiated by Central Soil & Water Conservation Research and Training Institute, Chandigarh. Until 1975, Sukhomajra had no source of regular irrigation. The entire agricultural land (52 hectares) was under rain-fed single cropping. Small land holdings (less

than one hectare per family) coupled with frequent crop failures due to erratic distribution of rainfall, made agriculture least dependable as a means of adequate livelihood. Consequently, the people of Sukhomajri were forced to keep a large number of sheep, goats and cows to eke out a living. But, once the domestic animals, especially the goats and cows, were allowed to graze freely in the nearby hills, followed by indiscriminate felling of trees for fuel and other domestic consumption, the hill slopes, once covered with lush green vegetation, soon became bare and not even a blade of grass was to be seen.

SUKHNA LAKE TO SUKHOMAJRI


In the year 1975, the continuing problem of silting of the prestigious man-made Sukhna Lake in Chandigarh drew the attention of the Central Soil and Water Conservation Research and Training Center, Chandigarh.
A reconnaissance survey conducted by the Centre under the leadership of Shri P.R. Mishra, the then Officer-in-Charge, revealed that the major source of sediment was about twenty-six per cent of the catchment area located in the close proximity of Sukhomajri and a few nearby villages. Sedimentation was

caused by the erosion of the bare hill slopes caused by over-grazing particularly by goats whose rearing had been the traditional occupation of the Gujjars inhabiting the village.

CONSTITUTING OF VILLAGE SOCIETY


The attitudinal change as manifested in the concept of 'social fencing', was strengthened through the constitution of a village society in 1979 called the 'Water Users' Association', which later emerged as "Hill Resource Management Society' (HRMS), duly registered. The HRMS discharges three main functions; (i) protection of hilly areas from grazing and illicit felling of trees, (ii) distribution of irrigation water from dams on payment basis and (iii) maintenance of dams, water conveyance systems and other assets. The sources of income

to the society are:irrigation water charges, sale of bhabbar and fodder grasses from forest area, income from leasing dam for fish culture and, one time membership fee. With the increase in income, both from farm and dairy sector, the economy of the villagers has shown a quantum jump. The villagers have been spending part of their income for constructing houses and a part in acquiring assets and modern gadgets.

To address the problem the Research Center applied soil conservation techniques developed by comprising of mechanical and vegetative measures. This reduced the runoff sediment from the highly eroded Shivaliks at a spectacular rate from eighty tonnes to less than one tonne per hectare, within a short span of a decade. The vegetative measures consisted of planting of tree species like khair (Acacia catechu) and shisham (Dalbergia sissoo), in pits and bhabbar grass (Eulaliopsis binata) at mounds of trenches, and also Agave americana and Ipomea cornea, in critical areas to protect the soil against erosion. However, all these measures for containing the sediment in situ did not succeed in the absence of the willing cooperation from the people of Sukhomajri, who depended for their sustenance on the resources available in the catchment area. Hence, to promote agriculture and water availability in the area earthern dams were constructed. This resulted in rain water harvesting & storage which could be used by the villages for agriculture through out the year. Thus dependence of cattle grazing and rearing. The concept of social fencing gained wide recognition. The society agreed to protect the hilly watersheds from grazing and illicit cutting of vegetation and in turn, were allowed to cut grass to stall feed their cattle and collect dry and dead wood or pruned branches for their domestic fuel consumption. As a result, the forest areas which had a desolate look in the beginning of the project were covered with grass and trees within a period of 10 to 15 years. Grass production increased more than double in the same period (from 3.82 t/ha to 7.72 t/ha).

Tree stocking in catchment area of three dams (Number per hectare)

Year

Dam Number

I

II

III

1980

103 (3.3)

64 (2.0)

27 (0/8)

1984

196

113

67

1988

288

161

112

1990

382

291

181

1992

393 (18.8)

415 (15.5)

211 (6.7)

Note: Figures in parenthesis are per cent canopy cover
Rain Water Harvesting


At Sukhomajri, four earthen dams have been built between 1976 and 1985. These serve three main purposes; firstly, to check instantly the gully formation in agricultural fields and, thereby, effectively prevent silting through the erosion of soil; secondly, to store surplus rainwater from the catchment area to be used later for irrigation after the withdrawal of monsoon and thirdly, rehabilitation of the catchment.

Details of rainwater harvesting dams at Sukhomajri

Dam No.

Year of construction

Catchment area (ha)

Storage capacity (m)

Command area (ha)

Cost (Rs.)

I

1976

4.3

8000

6.0

72,000

II

1978

9.2

55600

20.0

1,09,000

III

1980

1.5

9500

2.0

23,000

IV

1985

2.6

19300

5.0

1,50,000

 

INCREASE IN CROP YIELDS


With the availability of irrigation water mainly for rabi crops and introduction of improved agro-techniques, there was manifold increase in crop yields both for kharif and rabi. The average crop yields obtained before the project and during 2000 are given in Table.

Cropped area and yield of crops

Crop

Pre-project (1975-76)

Post-Project (1999-2000)

Area (ha)

Average yield (q/ha)

Total yield (q)

Area (ha)

Average yield (q/ha)

Total yield (q)

Kharif

Maize

8.73

6.0

52.0

26.73

19.5

521

Sorghum (Fodder)

4.70

80.0

376.0

12.86

140.0

1800

Pulses

0.56

3.0

1.68

--

--

--

Paddy

--

--

--

11.70

25.0

293

Rabi

Wheat

8.60

8.0

69.00

46.1*

27.0

1245

Gram

2.26

4.0

9.04

--

--

--

Sugarcane

1.20

150.0

180.0

1.4

250

350

CHANGE IN CATTLE COMPOSITION


Social compulsions, economic considerations, self restrain and availability of ample quantity of grass and fodder, both, from forest area and agricultural fields, brought about a dramatic change in the cattle composition in the village. Besides, barseem (Trifolium alaxandrinum) is now being grown over an area of 4 ha with an annual biomass production of 140 tonnes. This has given a fillip to the dairy sector and boosted milk production over the years.

REPLICABILITY OF SUKHOMAJRI MODEL


The Departments of Forests, Agriculture and Soil Conservation, the World Bank aided Integrated Watershed Development Project (IWDP), in the North-West Shivalik States, have already implemented hundreds of such projects in this region. To site an example, till 1996 the Forest Department Haryana built approximately 93 rainwater harvesting dams covering 53 villages and about 70 such dams were built by Department of Soil Conservation, Punjab. The IWDP (Kandi Project) has adopted this model on a massive scale in the North-West Shivalik States.

LESSONS FROM SUKHOMAJRI

  • Peoplesí participation must be ensured right from the beginning.

  • The needs and the problems of the people must be identified at the outset.

  • Unless a project is aimed at meeting their needs, solving their problems and mitigating their hardship, it may not succeed.

  • Watershed Management Projects should have short gestation period. The benefits should available in shortest possible period.

  • Constitution of a village society (HRMS) must be a pre-requisite before taking up such projects.

  • The emphasis should be on sustainability and equity, i.e., all the common property resources must be available to all sections of the society.

Source:S.P. Mittal, Y. Agnihotri & R.K. Aggarwal, Central Soil and Water Conservation Research & Training Institute, Chandigarh.)

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