Water Management – Institutional Reforms, Conservation Efforts, etc.

Who was Hermann Bacher?


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Hermann Bacher

Mains level: Watershed development in India

Hermann Bacher, popularly known as the ‘father of community-led watershed development in India’, passed away at the ripe old age of 97 years in Switzerland September 14, 2021.

Hermann Bacher

  • Born in 1924, Bacher, came to India in 1948 at the young age of 24 years.
  • He was to spend the next 60 years of his life here, most of it in Maharashtra.
  • Struck by the poverty he saw in rural Maharashtra, he dedicated his life to the upliftment of the poor, the landless and rural women.
  • Bacher was given Germany’s highest civilian award, the Federal Cross of the Order of Merit in 1994, in recognition of his outstanding efforts.
  • In 2017, the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertifiucation (UNCCD) awarded WOTR the prestigious ‘Land for Life Award 2017’.
  • He is widely regarded and respected as a true ‘man of God’ for whom selfless service of the poor was worship at its most sublime. He is fondly remembered as ‘Bacher Baba’.

Notable works

  • The 1972 droughts in Maharashtra led him to re-calibrate his developmental approach.
  • This meant that in rain-dependent rural Maharashtra, a shift had to be made from ‘resource exploitation’ to sustainable resource use, or ‘resource mobilisation’, as he described it.
  • He helped thousands of landless labourers’ secure title to land under the Land Reforms Act, 1957, beginning in 1965.
  • He also organised lakhs of farmers to develop their farms and increase their agricultural productivity by helping them access irrigation, improved and hybrid seeds etc.

Pioneering water harvest

  • Since rain fell in the watersheds and landscapes villagers lived in, the only way to harvest and conserve rainwater wherever it fell was to undertake watershed development measures.
  • The idea was that “running water must be made to walk; walking water made to stop and sink underground”.
  • This meant, planting trees and grasses, conserving forests, undertaking soil and water conservation works such as digging contour trenches, raising farm bunds, etc.
  • It also meant building water harvesting structures on the streams (check dams, earthen bunds, etc) in a systematic manner across the entire landscape of the village, beginning from the top.

Establishing the IGWDP

  • Through his work, was born the idea which later became the large-scale Indo-German Watershed Development Program (IGWDP) that he conceived and launched in Maharashtra in 1989.
  • This was in collaboration with and the support of the Governments of India, Maharashtra and Germany, NABARD and the non-profit sector.
  • Its unique and ground-breaking feature was that it put the villagers in the driver’s seat — the community would plan the programme, implement it and maintain the watershed assets.
  • Funds, substantial amounts, would be given directly to them and they would have to manage and account


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