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Government of India

Sikkim Revives Himalayan Springs

Sikkim Revives Himalayan Springs

The Sikkim government has given fresh lease of life to dying mountain springs and lakes for ensuring water security in the Himalayan region. About 65,000 (80%) of the rural households of Sikkim are mainly dependent on springs for drinking water and irrigation needs throughout the year, which is only source of water to meet their domestic and irrigation needs.

Funded under the MGNREGA national flagship programme, the State government launched this scientific pilot initiative namely Spring-shed development (Dhara Vikas) in the year 2008 in active collaboration with WWF-India, People’s Science Institute, Dehradun, ACWADAM, Pune and others in the highest and the steepest landscape in the country, by using rainwater harvesting, geohydrology and GIS techniques .

Principles of geohydrology, watershed and GIS were integrated to conceptualize this new initiative which was launched through the Rural Management and Development Department to revive, restore and rehabilitate the dying 50 Himalayan water springs and 4 lakes mainly in drought prone areas in view of the increasing threat from environmental changes resulting from changes in climate, land use and demography. These Himalayan springs in the state were drying and turning seasonal due to population increase, erratic rainfall and developmental activities which reduced the "sponge action" of the land and consequently created a hydrological imbalance.

Independent assessment by IISc, Bangalore has observed that Dhara Vikas has shown encouraging results and has led to a significant 15% enhancement in the spring discharge. The full impact of artificial recharge will be visible in the next three years which will further improve the health, hygiene, sanitation and the livelihood options of the rural folks.

Over the last five years a total of 400 hectares of land has been covered under spring shed development with a total investment of Rs 250 lakh resulting in an annual ground water recharge of 900 million litres. This has led to a revival of 50 springs and 4 lakes in drought prone Gram Panchayats in the State.

In order to provide specialized training and skills to existing manpower in the field of rainwater harvesting, geohydrology, spring discharge measurement, use of GPS and laying of contour trenches, more than 20 capacity building programs were organized in coordination with various NGOs like WWF- India, Peoples Science Institute – Dehradun, ACWADAM – Pune, ARGHYAM – Bangalore, Department of Science and Technology, Department of Mines and Geology, Government of Sikkim, Central Ground Water Board and the G. B. Pant Institute of Himalayan Environment and Development.

An incentive mechanism is also being provided to the farmers thereby facilitating the use of private lands and their conservation.

Based on the successful experiences of this initiative to revive Sikkim springs, the Planning Commission, Government of India, recommended the inclusion of spring-shed development in the new expanded list of permissible works under MGNREGA in 2012 which has paved the way for starting revival of springs all across the country under this national flagship programme.

Teams from WWF Nepal, Bhutan Government, Arunachal Pradesh Government and others have visited Sikkim on an exposure visit to learn more about the spring revival initiative and implement similar programs in their respective states. This initiative has helped in impacting national policy and the sharing of the learning has benefited other mountain regions as well.

The State was awarded highest civil services award “Prime Minister's Award for Excellence in Public Administration” on the basis of an independent assessment undertaken by the Ministry of Personnel, Government of India. This award was conferred by the Hon’ble Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh on the occasion of the Civil Services Day in Vigyan Bhawan, New Delhi in April 2013.

The WWF-India was presented “National Groundwater Augmentation Award for technical support to the MGNREGA-Dhara Vikas by the Ministry of Water Resources, Government of India during the year 2010-11. The State also won the eNorth East Award 2012 for preparing the Village Spring Atlas for the conservation of Himalayan springs and adapting to climate change.

Date Published: 2014-04-09

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