Environment, Development and Sustainability

, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 537–557 | Cite as

Watershed development in India. 1. Biophysical and societal impacts

  • Ian Calder
  • Ashvin Gosain
  • M. S. Rama Mohan Rao
  • Charles Batchelor
  • M. Snehalatha
  • Emma Bishop
Original Paper


This paper recommends a revision of watershed development policy in India in relation to the planning of development interventions involving agricultural intensification and rainwater harvesting following biophysical and societal impact studies carried out on two watershed development projects in Karnataka. A need for changes in policy has arisen in response to progressive catchments closure at the basin level and declining volumes of water flowing into village level reservoirs (known locally as tanks). Flow reductions have occurred largely as a result of increased agricultural intensification over the past 10–15 years. Field levelling, field bund construction, soil water conservation measures, farm ponds, the increase in areas under horticulture and forestry and the increased abstraction and use of groundwater for irrigation are all contributing factors to reduced flows. Planning methodologies and approaches, which may have been appropriate 20 years ago for planning water harvesting within watershed development projects, are no longer appropriate today. New planning approaches are required which (1) take account of these changed flow conditions and (2) are also able to take account of externalities, which occur when actions of some affect the livelihoods of others who have no control or influence over such activities and which (3) contribute to the maintenance of agreed minimum downstream flows for environmental and other purposes.


Externalities India Poverty Rainwater harvesting Soil conservation Watershed 



Bijapur integrated rural development society an NGO for the Inchigeri area


Centre for land use and water resources research


Danish international development agency


Department for international development


EXploratory, climate, land, assessment, and impact, management tool


HYdrological land use change


Jala samvardhane yojana sangha, a World Bank program responsible for implementing the Karnataka community based tank management project


Karnataka watershed development society


Non-governmental organisation


Soil conservation service




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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ian Calder
    • 1
  • Ashvin Gosain
    • 2
  • M. S. Rama Mohan Rao
    • 3
  • Charles Batchelor
    • 1
  • M. Snehalatha
    • 4
  • Emma Bishop
    • 1
  1. 1.CLUWRRUniversity of NewcastleNewcastle Upon TyneUK
  2. 2.Civil Engineering DepartmentIndian Institute of TechnologyDelhiIndia
  3. 3.JSYSBangaloreIndia
  4. 4.Social development consultantHyderabadIndia

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