The issue of scale has become paramount for the effective evaluation of Water Shed Development programs in India. There is a need for a meso-scale benefit and cost evaluation of the Water Shed Development 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.
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.
This project will integrate environmental, economic, social, equity and 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).