Karnataka is predominantly a rural and agrarian State. Agriculture plays a key role in State’s economy. Karnataka has given an important place for Watershed Development, because, 75% of the cropped area in Karnataka depends upon low and uncertain rainfall. It has a geographical area of 190.49 Lakh Ha. Net cropped area is 107.90 Lakh Ha. Out of this 23.20 Lakh Ha. is irrigated and 84.79 Lakh Ha. is rainfed area. This rainfed area is without any prospect of ever being able to receive any kind of command irrigation facilities. The State depends on dry land for more than half of its food production. In view of the above situation more emphasis is given for dry land farming in the State by way of developing dry land areas on watershed basis. All India soil and land use survey in its revised atlas in 1990 has identified 35 important river basins and 3237 Watersheds in the country. In Karnataka 6 rivers basins 234 Watersheds, 3515 Sub Wateshed, 34,299 Micro Watersheds have been identified for development.
The initial impetus to watershed development in Karnataka came from Kabbalnala Watershed in Kanakapura taluk of then Bangalore rural District in the year 1984-85. Later, four Dry Land Development Boards were set up, one in each Revenue Division to implement watershed development programmes in all the 19 districts in the State.
The main objective of the watershed development programmes is to conserve soil and moisture as well as to put the lands to the best use according to their capabilities to improve the overall productivity of the catchment in a holistic manner/way. The programmes primarily considers land as a single entity and helps in synchronizing all the land based activities to achieve productive potentials.
The process of watershed development involves co-ordinated multi-disciplinary activities and expertise from several Departments. To sustain the assets created under the programme, the participation of the people/community as well as Panchayat Raj institutions is also essential. In Karnataka, various bodies and Departments were implementing watershed development programmes which needed greater co-ordination in planning, implementation and supervision necessitating a concerted thrust on watershed approach/management.
The Govt. has therefore considered various aspects and decided that better co-ordination in planning, implementation and supervision in watershed programmes would be achieved by setting up a separate Department and hence the Government of Karnataka has created the Watershed Development Department with effect from 1.4.2000. A multi- disciplinary team, acting in conjunction with local populations, other government departments, NGOs and other entities, is mandated with creating an environment for enhanced agricultural productivity and socio – economic development in the rain- fed areas of the state. This takes the form of an integrated approach, spanning water management, soil conservation afforestation, horticulture, livestock, pasture development and income generation activities, which enables holistic and sustainable development. All the watershed schemes and projects under State Sector, Central Sector Schemes, Externally aided Projects as well as District Sector Schemes relating to watershed development are expected to be implemented through this Department.
Hon’ble Chief Minister in his budget speech of 2000-01 had stated as under:
“We have already set up a multi-disciplinary Directorate of Watershed Development. This will give a new thrust to watershed management in the arid zones of the State. Karnataka has the second largest arid zone area in the country, after Rajasthan. My Government attaches the highest priority to Watershed based projects, an area which Karnataka had pioneered but which unfortunately stagnated"
In pursuance of this, the operationalisation and streamlining of all projects and schemes related to watershed development under the aegis of Watershed Development Department has begun. A major initiative has also been taken to seek assistance from the World Bank for watershed development. The World Bank approved the proposal of the Government of Karnataka and sanctioned a loan of $ 100.4 million to treat an area of over 4 lakh Hectares. The project covered the districts of Dharwad, Haveri, Chitradurga, Tumkur and Kolar.
India is one of the major agricultural countries with more than 70% of the population depending on it. Indian agriculture is dependent on monsoon which is not uniform over the years. Nearly three fourths of the cultivable land in India is dependent on monsoon, which is contributing nearly 42% of the total production from agriculture. The productivity of any crop mainly depends on two natural resources- land and water in addition to management practices. Therefore the conservation, up gradation and utilization of these two natural resources on scientific principles is essential for the sustainability of rain fed agriculture. The watershed concept for development of rain fed agriculture is gaining importance over the years and it amply demonstrated that watershed developmental tools are very effective in meeting the objectives and mission.
The geographical area of the State is 190.50 lakh ha. of which 129.70 lakh ha. is available for watershed development. Out of this area, 68.51 lakh ha is treated up to end of the year 2018-19. It is estimated that 52.31 lakh ha is available for watershed development.
Watershed in Karnataka before Independence
During 1923 the Royal Commission on Agriculture suggested the setting-up of research stations in Bijapur, Hagari and Raichur. Based on this, dry farming stations were established in Raichur, Hagri and Bijapur in Karnataka under the dry land farming following system were introduced:
1.Contour bunding to check run off.
2.Deep ploughing once in 3 years for percolation of water
3.Use of farm yard manure.
4.Interculturing of crop for limited moisture use.
Watershed in Karnataka After Independence
After Independence, Karnataka continued with the traditional techniques of soil conservation and water retention treatments with a host of programmes being implemented by the Agriculture Department. In 1983 a World Bank assisted comprehensive watershed project was taken in Kabbalnala.
In order to capitalize on the gains of the Kabbalanala Project in 1984, Government of Karnataka created four Dry Land Development Boards under four revenue Divisional Commissioners with a jurisdiction over 19 districts. Each district had a multidisciplinary team comprising of line departments. The main objectives were:
1) Conserve basic resourses such as soil, rain water, and vegetation.
2) Achieve higher biomass production both in arable and non-arable areas
3) Impart stability to crop yields through proper rainwater management, crop patterns and land use.
4) Enhance the income of individuals through adoption of alternative enterprises.
5) To restore and sustain ecological balance.
The success of these watersheds encouraged GOI to follow the strategy of watersheds in principle and launched a massive NWDP in 7th five year plan extended to 693 watersheds located in 99 districts of the country with a total outlay of Rs. 239 crores in 15 states, including Karnataka.
Major Milestones of WDD
1974 – Drought Prone Area Programme launched by Ministry of Rural Development GoI
1978 – Desert Development Programme launched by MoRD
1985 - Establishment of National Wasteland Development Board under Ministry of Enviroment and Forest , GoI
1989 – Integrated wasteland Development Project launched by MoRD
1990 – National watershed Development programme for rainfed areas launched by ministry of Agriculture, GoI
1993 – Employment Assurance Scheme launched by MoRD
1995 – Watershed Development in shifting Cultivation Areas launched by MoA
2003 – Hariyali Guidelines by MoRD
2005 – Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act implemented by MoRD
2006 – Establishment of National Rainfed Areas under the Planning Commission, GoI
2008 – Common guidelines for watershed Development Projects by NRAA
2009- Launch of Integrated Watershed Management Programme
Scope of the department
In the backdrop of growing population in the State with consequent demand for ever increasing food, it was strongly felt for bringing large tracts of rainfed dryland under Watershed sytem to increase the productivity of land. In this process, modern technology is used for conservation of soil and water and increasing the productivity of soil by way of checking soil erosion. With this sole aim, Four Dry Land Development Boards were established in 1984 under the Divisional Commissioners under whom there were 18 Project Directors implementing watersheds in various parts of the State. There was a State Watershed Development Programme Cell headed by a Director, who was co-ordinating these 19 Project Directors in the State. Under this system, 2153459 hects. were developed in the last two decades in the State. It is proposed that balance area that remains to be developed will be developed in phases in next 20 years.
Present and future watershed programmes in Karnataka
The Department has multi-disciplinary technical experts drawn from Agriculture, Horticulture and Forest Departments who are pooling their experience, expertise and technology in the Watershed Programmes in dry land areas being financed by External, Central, State and District sector schemes.
Basic components of watershed approach in Karnataka
The watershed development aproach, as implemented in Karnataka, consists of following components:
1.Human resource development (community development),
2.Soil and land management,
6.Livestock management, rural energy management and
7.Farm and non farm value addition activities;
This system has led to overall development of the human resource and environment in the watershed.