Elaborate on the impact of the National Watershed Project in increasing agricultural production from water-stressed areas. (10 Marks)

Mentor Comments:

  • Again, the question is easy and its demands are straightforward.
  • In the intro, define watershed, watershed management
  • Name some projects under the National Watershed Project (origin of drought-prone areas programme, integrated watershed development programme). Also mention some recent projects under Neeranchal National watershed project
  • In the main body of the answer, discuss the positive impact of such programmes and connect it to how it has increased agricultural productivity (increased recharge of groundwater, reduce surface runoff, conversion of wasteland, etc).
  • Give some specific examples like Vidarbha and Rajasthan, where the program has improved the agriculture productivity.
  • In the second part of the main body, briefly mention some of the challenges in the implementation of the program
  • In conclusion, give some suggestions, as in, how to improve the working of the program and how it holds the key for doubling of farmers’ income by 2022.


Watershed management is a method employed by the government at micro-level basically in rain-fed areas with prominent role of Panchayati Raj institutions with major objectives including the conservation, up-gradation and utilization of natural facilities such as land, water, plant, animal and human resources in a harmonious and integrated manner for comprehensive development of the region and nation. The development of watershed strategy in the global perspective is traced back to the Earth summit of 1992 with sustainable growth from the grass-root level.


Neeranchal National Watershed Project:

  • Watershed development is critical to India’s development as vast stretches of agricultural land are in rain-fed regions, characterized by extensive land degradation, low rainfall, reduced agricultural productivity, and higher rates of poverty. 
  • The Neeranchal national watershed project is a World Bank assisted project aims to fulfil the watershed component of the Pradhan Mantri Krishi Sinchai Yojana (PMSKY).
  • Neeranchal is primarily designed to address the following concerns:
    • bring about institutional changes in watershed and rainfed agricultural management practices in India,
    • build systems that ensure watershed programmes and rainfed irrigation management practices are better focused, and more coordinated, and have quantifiable results,
    • devise strategies for the sustainability of improved watershed management practices in programme areas, even after the withdrawal of project support, through the watershed plus approach, support improved equity, livelihoods, and incomes through forwarding linkages, on a platform of inclusiveness and local participation.

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Impact of the National Watershed Project in increasing agricultural production from water-stressed areas:

  • The project has helped farmers adopt new soil, water and crop management techniques to increase vegetative cover, reduce soil erosion, and improve agricultural yields.  
  • It has facilitated access to real time weather forecasts and help farmers adopt climate-smart agricultural practices to mitigate climate change impacts. 
  • It has also improved rural livelihoods through training, better extension services, and strengthened forward linkages to markets.    
  • Efficient watershed management under the NWP has helped increase agricultural production in rain-fed areas, leading to better use of scarce water resources and raise household incomes of farmers.
  • Transformation of dry patch of land to vibrant farms and plantation. For example, Thummachennupalle watershed in Chittoor district transformed into a community-owned orchard after NABARD implemented Neeranchal.
  • A cheap and sustainable way to utilize the water of rivers and rivulets through the construction of check dams are a novel way to bridge the water requirement in tainted areas like Rajasthan, Latur.
  • Overall improvement of the area with waste management, pollution prevention and recycling efforts has led to the holistic development of the region associated.
  • This is an inclusive concept wherein decentralization, community participation and holistic approach are being applied in the areas of watershed management region to eliminate the inter-regional differences, to enhance food and nutrition security and to enhance land and water resource management.

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Reasons for unsatisfactory performance:

  • Non-release of funds and delay in appointment of experts for institution and capacity building 
  • Lack of participation of communities.
  • Building stronger capacities and systems to plan, implement, monitor and post-project sustainability of local institutions and assets. 
  • In many cases, malfunction and cases of corruption are not reported properly.
  • When the groundwater table increases as a result of watershed management projects, farmers in the area go for water-intensive crops like paddy and sugarcane and drain it again.

Sustainable watershed management through people’s participation is a complex process as its ultimate goal is socio-economic and social-development of the people living in the watershed area. Systematic planning, project designing, implementation and capacity building of locals for future sustenance of the indigenous are the key factors for success. Better coordination among various agencies such as MGNREGA, agriculture ministry and water ministry can bring convergence on the ground, increasing the impact of the project, in line with the Mihir Shah committee recommendations.

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