A watershed is defined as any spatial area from which runoff from precipitation is collected and drained through a common point or outlet. In other words, it is a land surface bounded by a divide, which contributes runoff to a common point. It is defined as unit of area, which covers all the land, which contributes runoff to a common point. It is synonymous with a drainage basin or catchment area. The basic unit of development is a watershed, which is a manageable hydrological unit.
Watershed management is the rational utilization of land and water resources for optimum production with minimum hazard to natural resources.
Watershed management has been taken up under different programmes launched by Government of India. The Drought Prone Area Development Programme (DPAP) and the Desert Development Programme (DDP) adopted watershed development approach in 1987. The Integrated Watershed Development Project (IWDP) taken up by the National Wasteland Development Board (NWDB) in 1989 also aimed at the development of wastelands on watershed basis. The fourth major programme based on watershed concept is the National Watershed Development Programme for Rainfed Areas (NWDPRA) under the Ministry of Agriculture.The ministry of Rural development funds watershed development schemes under DDP, DPAP, and IWDP.
The main components of watershed programme are:
1. Soil and water conservation
2. Water harvesting
3. Crop management and
4. Alternate land use systems
Based on the size the watersheds may be classified as-
Micro watersheds: The size of the watershed range from few hectares to hundreds of hectares. These can be designed within the crop fields.
Small watersheds: The watershed has few thousands of hectares as drainage area.
Large watersheds: The river basins are considered as large watersheds.
The objectives of watershed management programme can also be described in symbolic form by the expression:
POWER. Here the letters symbolize the following:
P= Production of food-fodder-fuel-fruit-fibre-fish-milk combined on a sustained basis- Pollution control; Prevention of floods
O= Over-exploitation of resources to be minimized by controlling excessive biotic interferences like overgrazing- Operational practicability of all on farm operations and follow-up programmes including easy approachability to different locations in watershed
W= Water storage at convenient locations for different purposes- Wild animal and indigenous plant life conservation at selected places
E= Erosion control- Ecosystem safety; Economic stability; Employment generation
R= Recharge of groundwater- Reduction of drought hazards; Reduction of siltation in multipurpose reservoirs; Recreation.
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