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Watershed plans for focussed growth

T. Nandakumar
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As many as 60 panchayats across the State are discovering the benefits of micro watershed action plans for focussed and sustainable development.

The action plans are based on land resources data generated by the Kerala State Land Use Board (KSLUB) through a participatory approach. They outline the targeted activities to be undertaken by local bodies in each micro watershed.

“Scientific and systematic evaluation of land resources holds the key to developmental planning. Climate, soil, water, vegetation, biotic life, human population, and social and economic considerations are elements that have to be factored into the planning process. The watershed action plan will help the panchayats assess the capability and suitability of land resources for various uses, with the end-user as the focus,” said S. Edison, Joint Director, KSLUB.

The socio-economic conditions of people living within the watershed area are also factored into the land-use plan to make it economically viable and sustainable. “The development of a watershed needs good understanding about the various natural resources, their relations with each other, and with the livelihood of stakeholders”, Mr. Edison said.

According to C. Bhaskaran, professor, Agricultural Extension, College of Agriculture, Vellayani, the watershed action plan has emerged as a powerful tool for precision planning. “It has the potential to usher in revolutionary changes in the agriculture sector. Local bodies can formulate targeted plans to avoid wastage of money. Data on available resources will help them design and implement soil and water conservation programmes in critical areas,” he said.

Reality check

Citing the action plan for Kalliyoor panchayat in Thiruvananthapuram, the latest to be prepared, he said the area under paddy cultivation had shrunk to 30 hectares from 340.85 hectares over a period of approximately 20 years, indicating that nearly 90 per cent of the fields had been converted for other purposes.

Paddy cultivation

“That information underlines the need to prioritise paddy cultivation in the next Plan period. Similarly, the area covered by the Vellayani freshwater lake has shrunk to 149.73 hectares, calling for conservation programmes. The data also provides critical inputs for wasteland development and other programmes.”

The action plan proposes the activities that can be taken up by the panchayat in different sectors. These include extension of paddy farming, soil and water conservation, improvement of the transport network, tourism development, drinking water schemes, solid-waste management, infrastructure development, animal husbandry, and wasteland development.

Primary input

KSLUB uses the data generated by remote-sensing satellites as the primary input to prepare resource and thematic maps in digital form. The secondary data, including socio-economic information, is generated through a participatory approach involving panchayat functionaries, local resource persons, and farmers.

The data from different levels is integrated and analysed through a user interaction process to identify the limitations and development potential of the area. This forms the basis of location-specific action plans comprising detailed maps and reports that are submitted to the panchayats.

Kalliyoor panchayat president T.K. Shaileshkumar said the watershed action plan would provide a good scope for employment generation and conversion of fallow land.

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