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                                    Relmajra - Watershed Project For Natural Resource  Conservation Through Participatory Management

The project area is located just above the village Rel Majra of Tehsil Balachur District Nawanshahar( Latitude 31
0N Longitude 760 20'E) and 280 m above mean sea level. The watershed area spread over 627 ha, drains into river Satluj through six seasonal streams locally known as choes.The entire region was facing degradation due to over exploitation of hill vegetation by humans and animals, leading to denudation of forests and expanding net work of choes (seasonal streams) which were continually getting 

deeper and wider with large scale movement of silt along with runoff causing water erosion. An integrated watershed development project was initiated by CSWCRI, Chandigarh  at Relmajra – a typically hilly village situated in foothills of Shivalik belt of Punjab for erosion control and water management. 

Soil and Climate

The soil of the area is coarse textured loamy sand with moderate to good water holding capacity. The region receives 1000 mm of annual rainfall on an average, about 80% of which is received during the monsoon season (July to September). 

Pre-project Scenario

Out of thirty two hectares of land in the village with undulating topography, only 2-3 ha was being cultivated as rainfed with very low yields.  Rainwater from hills in Relmajra drained through the village in the form of flash floods transporting sand and silt down stream.  The same got deposited on the agricultural lands making them unproductive and also affected the transport and communication systems. The problem was,

therefore, addressed through participatory watershed management programme.   


The major components were: 

  • Hilly catchment area (59 ha) was treated with soil and water conservation measures alongwith planting of trees and grasses. 

  • Contour trenches on hills were dug to promote in-situ moisture conservation and to act as traps for the detached soil and to induce reduction in velocity of flow of runoff water. 

  • Harvesting the excess rainwater was taken up by of construction of a 14 m high earthern dam with storage capacity of 13 ha m runoff water in 3 ha spread area. 

  • A network of under ground pipelines (3 km) were laid to supply harvested water through gravity flow to the farm lands (32 ha) down below the dam. 

  • Soil conservation measures were adopted to make land cultivable and enhance the efficiency of irrigation water and other inputs for crop production. 

  • Alternate land use systems were developed on degraded community land. 

  • Improved technologies for animal husbandry, horticulture and, pasture development were introduced for augmenting the income of the local community. 

Sociological Innovations
  • A Water Users’ Association (WUA) was constituted and duly registered under the societies Act of 1960. 

  • The responsibility of protection of the hilly catchment areas against illicit cutting of trees and grazing was entrusted to WUA, thus developing a concept of social fencing. 

  • WUA assumed responsibility for management of the irrigation water from the dam including volumetric control of water and collection of irrigation charges from the farmers. 

  • Income from water charges and community land is being utilized for maintenance of dam and village welfare activities. 


Sociological Innovations

The farmers in the area leveled 20.45 ha land with their own efforts after clearing the fields. The availability of harvested water in the dam was the main catalyzing force behind the activity. Since the implementation of the project there has been a constant rise in the area cultivated during Kharif and Rabi crops. Wheat crop occupies the major area (88%) during the Rabi season with a yield of 35-40 q/ha. It was not possible to take wheat crop earlier due to non availability of irrigation water and undeveloped agriculture area. Similarly, area under maize which was taken earlier as fodder crop a marginal area has now increased considerably and the yield obtained is around 20 q/ha with improved agriculture technology. Availability of more fodder from the cropped and the catchment areas, has led to increase in number of bullocks and milch cattle. Apart from the achievements at individual level, the WUA has also generated funds for social purposes. The village has a community centre which serves as meeting place for planning activities for village development. 
A small intervention of technology in integrated watershed development has transformed the economy and ecology of hill region while conserving the natural resources through people’s participation. 

(Source: Dr. Y. Agnihotri & Dr. R.K. Aggarwal,Central Soil and Water conservation Research & training Institute,Chandigarh


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