The Mid Himalayan Watershed Development Project in Himachal Pradesh,started in October 2005 in 10 districts has helped preserve natural resources and prevent soil erosion besides ensuring substantial improvement in the local economy. Initially, 602 gram panchayats of 42 development blocks were covered. However, considering the fruitful results, another 108 panchayats that were covered under a micro watershed programme were also brought under its ambit.
Funded by the world bank the project was provided with additional financial support in 2012 for the newly-included panchayats. The total outlay of the project increased to Rs.630.75 crore (almost $93 million) from Rs.395 crore. The duration of the project has also been extended till March from 2013, said the spokesperson.
A total of 4,932 user groups were formed for managing natural resources in a sustainable manner under the project, which gave a new dimension to the state’s development. Around 70 percent area was covered under plantations which remarkably contributed to conserve the environment, the spokesman said.
Since the state’s economy majorly banks on agriculture and allied sectors, a major thrust has been given in the watershed project to increase the availability of water through conservation and maintenance of natural resources.As staggering 8,961 water harvesting structures with a capacity of 10.78 lakh cubic meters have been set up, besides construction of a 241-km long irrigation channel which helped to diversify agriculture as the production of high value crops resulted in the enhancement of farmer’s income.
The Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) Bio-Carbon Project, a major component of this project, is being implemented over 4,003 hectares in 177 panchayats. This includes 3,176 hectares of forests, 293.06 hectares of community land and 533.15 hectares of private land. The CDM has not only provided carbon credits but has also gone a long way in protecting soil erosion and prevention of landslides in vulnerable areas.
It has helped in development of organic diversification and plantations to benefit the local communities through production of various produce, thereby providing self-employment opportunities, said the spokesperson.
During this period, 33,000 metric tonnes of vermicompost was produced and intervention on arable lands resulted in increase in wheat production by 14 percent, maize by 13 percent and milk yield by 11.55 percent.More than 32 livelihood activities were implemented by 4,174 common interest groups. These concerted efforts have resulted in increase in the per capita income of the state, which has gone up to 93 percent.
The state has now sought the intervention of the Indian government to prevail upon the World Bank to extend the project period by at least one year.