Major Research Project on Community Participation and Socio-Economic transformation in watershed Managemen

Major Research Project on Community Participation and Socio-Economic transformation in watershed Management

Dr Pritha Dasgupta

Professor, Department of Sociology

CHRIST (Deemed to be University)

Bangalore – 560029




Watershed management is an interdisciplinary enterprise. The study of watershed can link Engineering, Science and Social Sciences and help in the formulation of effective social policy. Undertaking of watershed study ideally becomes an interdisciplinary discourse linking empirical studies on the land and local water usage patterns essentially within a historical, economic and sociological perspective. One of the conclusions reached by scholars is that the prominent differences among watersheds is expressible not only in technical, biotic or hydrologic terms, but is related to differing socio-cultural perceptions of the environment and sustainability of water resources.


Water concerns in South Asia are critical, varied and complex. First of all, per capita water endowment in South Asia vis-à-vis the rest of the world is quite scanty. South Asia being a home of 25% of the world?s population receives less than 50% of the world?s annual renewable water resources. Except Bhutan and Nepal, all countries in this region share smaller per capita water availability than the world average (Babel and Wahid, 2008).


As global population continues to increase water would be the first resource to run short in developing countries, more so in India. Indian economy is dependent on agriculture. The pattern of the land is arid, semi-arid and drought prone area. To a large extent these areas are crucial for agricultural production. Due to large scale development sustainability of water resources is the prime concern of any effective policy. Strengthening of community based approach through efficient management of available water would lead to an improvement of the livelihood of rural population in the context of rain-fed areas of India and the world (Dar and Rai, 2008).


Ahmed (2005) observes that the water crisis is essentially one of governance – how our water resources are managed at different institutional levels and by whom is the prime concern. Focus on gender, poverty and social exclusion is a significant point of departure from the traditional top-down approach for decentralized community water management initiatives.


In this context, Watershed Management assumes crucial importance. Watershed refers to a geographical set up where water is draining into a single water body or a water course. In other words, it is a topographical area having a common drainage. This means that the rainwater falling on an area coming within a ridgeline can be harvested and will flow out of this area through a single point (Chandrashekhar, 2011). It is also referred to as a catchment area or a river basin (Government of Karnataka, 2003). According to C.H Hanumantha Rao (2000), the programme „has been conceived basically as a strategy for protecting the livelihood of the people inhabiting the fragile ecosystems experiencing soil erosion and moisture stress?.


Gravis (2004) defines Watershed Development as a people?s programme, community oriented in a particular geographical area focusing on various livelihood activities integrated for the development of the rural areas. The focus is on water, food and fodder security, fishery, livestock, poultry rearing and employment generation.


Given the crucial significance of watershed management, Government of India has given a priority to watershed development in rain-fed areas in the country for rural development in various regions.Wani, (2003) has shown positive relation between watershed and enhanced productivity in rain-fed areas. Not only does it provide an opportunity to maintain self-sufficiency in food while sustaining water resources, it doubles the productivity in rain-fed areas. Therefore, the need for sustainable use of water resources and sustainable development.


However, the interface between water and poverty has been a less understood one. It rests primarily on the premise that water being one of the most crucial resource for human existence and hence contested, may create space for community participation and empowerment as well as disempowerment. The relationships between them are more complex than is understood to be in the current discourses on the interface between water and poverty. (Shah & Kulkarni, 2013). However, the contemporary water-poverty discourse has largely remained disjointed, or has seen in isolation from larger society. Studies focussing on water and poverty have been overly concerned with income levels, paying little attention to the other aspects such as health, education, quality of life, property rights regime, equality of opportunities, and sustainability of resources. At the same time, the gender discourse has not moved beyond arguing for rights for women on efficiency and welfare grounds.


It is imperative to take forward the discourses on water, poverty and social inclusion in a manner that leads to a more comprehensive understanding of water-poverty issues. This would necessitate a deeper and nuanced understanding of the interface between the two in a specific socio-economic and geographical context, in the light of major strands of conceptual as well as empirical discourses on the theme. Our present study aims at addressing these concerns by: Revisiting the dominant theories and contextualizing them in the light of recent trends in policy formulation and actual experience gathered from various participatory initiatives in the watershed sector in the region; Evolving an analytical framework and identifying key research questions and Exploring appropriate methodologies for empirical investigation in Karnataka.



Year of Publication: June 2014

ISBN    978-93-82305-71-2

Major Research Project: Vol 15

Pages     xiii, 194

Price: available on request

Funded by Centre for Research-Projects-CHRIST (Deemed to be University)

Published by Centre for Publications, CHRIST (Deemed to be University)