Since the early 1980s, the Indian Watershed Development (WSD) programs in rainfed dryland agriculture have been developed and implemented at micro-watershed scale (average size about 500ha) aiming to ensure the sustainability of the surface and groundwater resources and to improve the livelihoods of farmers.
From Wani’s national WSD evaluation (Wani et al. 2008), it has become apparent that the effects of water retention (e.g. surface water diversion, groundwater pumping) in micro-watersheds is likely to negatively affect downstream access to water and have an impact on water resources sustainability and farmer livelihoods.
Thus the issue of scale has become paramount for the effective evaluation of the WSD program. While terms vary from state to state, the following definitions have been adopted for this study and are deemed appropriate for Andhra Pradesh after discussions with the Department of Rural Development:
- Micro scale-less than 1500 hectares
- Meso scale 1500-10000 hectares
- Macro Level over 10000 hectares (including basin level investigations).
There is a need for a meso-scale benefit and cost evaluation of the WSD programs so that unintended impacts are avoided and that the implementation of programs is improved. Operating at a meso-scale will also provide more effective opportunities to link and address micro and macro scale biophysical and institutional issues. This project will integrate environmental, economic, social and equity dimensions at meso levels to help ensure that WSD contributes positively to the Indian government’s sustainable livelihoods goal and provide the foundations for a resilient and sustainable WSD.
Success will not only be determined by spatial scales (e.g. micro versus meso) but will also be determined by the disciplinary scale of analysis (e.g. focusing on short term economic efficiency alone runs considerable risk of ignoring longer term trends in natural and social capital).
The objectives of the project are to:
- Enrich and upgrade an integrated approach (from ACIAR project ASEM/2001/095) for the assessment of the environmental, economic and social impacts of current WSD at a meso-scale in Andhra Pradesh.
- Assess the cost effectiveness and water-related resilience and equity outcomes of stakeholder-defined possible future WSD scenarios in Andhra Pradesh.
- Develop an awareness of the potential of the integrated approach and the project findings in the WSD policy at local and state levels.
The project outcomes are expected to sustainably enhance the livelihoods of local communities through the development and adoption of effective and resilient land management practices delivered though improved institutional arrangements. Maximum impacts will be sought through the ongoing collaboration with the Andhra Pradesh Department of Rural Development by focusing on policy and program delivery and the Andhra Pradesh Farmer Managed Groundwater Systems project focusing on participative WSD scenario development and adoption of best management practices
While this project will focus on two case studies in India, it is important to demonstrate that the approach taken is not situation specific and can be adapted to other circumstances. For this reason a feasibility study of the application of the methodology to two Australian catchments will be undertaken. This activity will demonstrate the general applicability and caveats of the methodological approach developed in the Andrah Pradesh work. This validational analysis is frequently neglected to the significant detriment of the usefulness of case study investigations.
Collaborators in India include the International Water Management Institute, the Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture, the National Geophysical Research Institute, the Andhra Pradesh Farmer Managed Groundwater Systems project and the Andhra Pradesh Department of Rural Development.
The Australian participants include the Centre for Planning at Edith Cowan University, CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems and the Australian National University in Australia.
For a list of partners, see project partners.