Springshed Management

    According to a NITI Aayog report (2018), there are five million springs across India, of which nearly 3 million are in the Indian Himalayan Region. An estimated 200 million people depend on spring water across the Himalayas, Western Ghats, Eastern Ghats, Aravallis and other such mountain ranges, implying that more than 15% of India’s population depends on spring water. The local communities consider the springs holy due to their role in natural filtration of water as it travels through shallow and deep aquifers. Springs also serve the important hydrological function of sustaining winter and dry season stream flows in non-glaciated catchments, helping sustain riverine ecosystems and biodiversity across the Himalayan river basins.

    Despite the key role that springs play, they have not received due attention and many are drying up. According to NITI Aayog, there is increasing evidence that springs are drying up or their discharge is reducing throughout the Indian Himalayan region. Studies estimate that nearly half of the perennial springs have already dried up or have become seasonal and tens of thousands of villages are currently facing acute shortage of water for drinking and domestic use. Given the magnitude of the crisis of widespread problem of drying springs there is a pressing need to scale up Springshed development programmes in the mountainous regions.

    Springshed Management

    Springshed management offers a paradigm shift to address increasing water insecurity, particularly in the Himalayan region. The concept of springshed management entails the analysis of springs; the identification and demarcation of springsheds and recharge areas through science and demystified local knowledge; monitoring of rainfall, spring discharge, and water quality; a solid understanding of social and governance aspects in order to finally undertake appropriate recharge measures linked to appropriate governance mechanisms, which also ensure the monitoring of socio-economic and environmental impacts.
    Globally, India is a pioneer when it comes to Springshed management. Several efforts are being made through the State Govts. to restore and rejuvenate springs in India.

    Pitching in the Initiatives under WDC-PMKSY 2.0, on the recommendations of NITI Aayog and with the approval of Government, Springshed management has been taken up as an activity in the WDC-PMKSY 2.0 within the approved cost. The release of the Guidelines for New Generation Watershed Development Projects under WDC-PMKSY 2.0 by Department of Land Resources in 2021 placed special focus on springshed management by recognizing it as an activity under new generation watershed projects to mitigate spring water depletion. The restoration of springshed (catchments), with landscape restoration initiatives, will also yield co-benefits such as capacity building, reduction of disaster risks and secured quality of life.
    Under WDC-PMKSY 2.0, 2641 springs have been identified by the 15 States /UTs for rejuvenation / development in watershed project areas in 90 districts. Activities like construction of Check dams. Gabion structures, Recharge wells, Farm ponds, Percolation tanks, Bench terracing, making of trenches etc. are carried out. Detailed Standard Operating Procedure (SoP) to facilitate implementation at ground level has also been issued by DoLR for the benefit of all stakeholders.