Watershed Development

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A watershed is an area of land comprising a common set of waterbodies such as streams, rivulets and overflowing ponds during the monsoon, that all drain into a single larger body of water, such as a large river, lake or an ocean.

Watershed development refers to the conservation, regeneration and the judicious use of all the natural resources, especially land, water, vegetation and animals, along with sustainable human development within the watershed.

Our approach to watershed development aims to unite vulnerable communities to regenerate degraded watersheds they live in. This includes a participatory approach undertaking soil and water conservation measures and integrating biodiversity concerns into watershed development efforts. The idea is to bring about natural resources regeneration and check over exploitation of the resources by the community.

We believe by mobilising communities to harvest rainwater and regenerate ecosystems, the quality of life and incomes can improve substantially.

Alignment with International Frameworks

Sustainable Development Goals

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Land Degradation Neutrality, United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD)

Watershed development is seen as one of the most critical activities to prevent land degradation. WOTR works across all the activities identified by the UNCCD needed to stem land degradation, namely land rehabilitation and sustainable land management, including sustainable agriculture, agroforestry, renewable energy, and infrastructure development.

Watershed development is helping tribal villages
in Odisha sustain in the aftermath of COVID-19

Watershed development work in progress in Kinteda
Watershed development work in progress in Kinteda
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Kinteda is a small tribal hamlet in the Kulusing gram panchayat of Gunupur block in Rayagada district, Odisha. The last seven kilometres to reach the village is a ghat road meandering to a hilltop which is inaccessible during the monsoon. The village is at a height of  396 m above sea level. There are 56 vulnerable tribal households here. The average agricultural land holding of each household is a meager 0.4 hectare. The main source of income is labour.

Due to the COVID-19, the villagers were deprived of labour for two months. During Unlock 1.0, they were unable to find work. WOTR surveyed the site for potential watershed development and drafted a net plan for two patches where the surface water runoff velocity is high. Further on, it was decided to construct 9 Continuous Contour Trenches (CCT) along the hillock. During flash floods, eroding soil from the hill gets deposited in the agricultural land, resulting in crop loss. Stone bunds and Loose Boulder Structures (LBS) in the gullies were constructed involving Kinteda villagers, as outlets for the runoff water without affecting the soil. This will conserve 1345 cum runoff and obstruct flash flood and erosion of top soil from ridge area to the valley where there are paddy fields. The runoff will be caught by the CCT. The paddy fields downstream will have sufficient irrigation through percolation. This is a long term benefit subject to maintenance of the CCT. Providing employment to 75 villagers, with Rs 74,052 distributed among 75 vulnerable households in daily wages, the work was completed on June 6.

“Our village is situated in a remote location. No one bothers to enquire about us. However, WOTR staff immediately called a meeting and provided us with work after understanding our situation in these uncertain times. We have never executed any work with so much technical precision – like measuring contours and so on. Overall, it was a good experience for us,” said the ward member from Kinteda.

Scale of operations

Worked across 1,914 villages of 8 states covering 1,148,506 hectares benefitting 1.97 million people

213 villages covered through MGNREGA in an area of 173,091 ha (1,730.91 sq. km) impacting 346,634 people

Watershed related activities generated over 4,58,768 days of labour resulting in earnings of Rs. 9.74 crore for the beneficiaries



What is watershed development? – the technical aspects

This paper argues that there is a clear need for more systematic economic valuation of WSD initiatives to better prioritize government funding and WSD guidelines, foster greater awareness of the benefits of ecosystem restoration for food security and poverty alleviation, and improve the planning and implementation of projects in the future.



WOTR’s Wasundhara Approach – social aspects of watershed development

The Wasundhara Approach is integral to watershed development work that we do across the country. The approach was adopted in 2005 and has been implemented in over 200 villages, with far-reaching and self-sustaining impacts. It creates a development partnership between NGOs and villagers based on regeneration of the resource base, transparency, equitable distribution of benefits, and gender equality.



Gender and watershed development

This paper focuses primarily on the lives of women and on the relationships between men and women and other gender-related issues. Read on about how watershed development capitalizing on the possibilities and opportunities it offers for building up the capabilities of women empowerment.




For more information, please contact Sandeep.jadhav@wotr.org.in and harish.daware@wotr.org.in