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Developing and implementing science-based springshed management in the Indian Himalayan Region

Karishma Khadka & Barsha Rani Gurung

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In collaboration with the Advanced Center for Water Resources Development and Management (ACWADAM), Indian Institute of Technology Roorkee (IITR), and People’s Science Institute (PSI), we organized an inception workshop on 23-24 August 2021. The workshop focused on creating a collective vision for the springshed management approach among partners, governments, and other stakeholders leading to a collaborative work scheme research initiative, Development and Implementation of Science-based Springshed Management in the Indian Himalayan Region (IHR). The Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) is supporting the research initiative, which aims to advance scientific knowledge, capacity building, and develop a Decision Support System (DSS) for springsheds through action research.

The workshop brought together key stakeholders, policy makers, practitioners, and academicians, including government officials from almost all states of the IHR to share information about the initiative, exchange learning, and explore opportunities for collaboration in implementing springshed management in the region. The Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change (MoEFCC), Department of Land Resources of the Ministry of Rural Development, NITI Aayog, and several academic institutions, international organizations and civil society organizations participated in the workshop.

The workshop focused on identifying issues and challenges for springshed management scalability, capacity building, decision support systems and identifying the needs and opportunities for planning and implementing springshed management. Participants also discussed the training needs of the different themes of the six-step protocol for spring revival and springshed management. We have worked with partners to develop a methodology-based, customized six step protocol for spring revival. It combines research and community knowledge and includes participatory approaches and advanced scientific techniques for spring revival and springshed management. This protocol is being implemented under the initiative at pilot locations in Uttarakhand, Himachal Pradesh, Sikkim, and Manipur.

 

Key messages

The key messages from the inception workshop are as follows:

  • Decreased water security due to drying up of springs is a major concern in the IHR and across the Hindu Kush Himalaya region, which already face water stress due to impacts of climate change, human activities, and demographic shifts.
  • Although springs are the oldest and the greenest source of water and require no energy to access it, there is limited data available on springs in IHR.
  • Spring discharge and spring water quality are directly linked to the health of people and ecosystems. This is a growing concern which needs more attention.
  • There is a need for a central portal to facilitate data collection, storage, and sharing of relevant data and information on springs. A common set of indicators for springshed decision support system and software need to be identified through a multistakeholder consultation.
  • Springs are a part of larger socio-economic and governance systems. Hence, sustainable springshed management entails not only a good understanding of the underlying hydrogeology, but also of social systems and local leadership.
  • Water strategies need to consider springs not only as a water source but also as an integral part of the hydrologic cycle with unimpaired groundwater resource that needs to be managed collectively.
  • The concept of payment for ecosystem services (PES) is essential to incentivize spring rejuvenation by communities in the upstream areas of a springshed in conjunction with downstream communities.
  • There is a need for institutionalizing capacity building at a larger scale for gender responsive springshed management along with strengthening skills and capacities of the community, particularly women, in recharging, managing, monitoring, and governing springs.
  • Coordination among line departments and other stakeholders needs to be enhanced by creating decision support systems that build, enhance, and optimize convergence. Water resource agencies involved in spring water supply need to engage in springshed conservation and management through better coordination with other sectors.
  • Springshed management should be a subset of watershed management as funds are available for watershed management at the state level. The springshed perspective should be integrated in land use, land development planning, and engineering.
  • NITI Aayog’s short- and long-term objectives in springshed management should be taken forward to institutionalize the work, generate resources, and minimize duplication.
  • There is already a strong foundation for the springshed management movement, but its work must grow to address the increasing local level water security and socio-ecological resilience due to the depletion of springs discharge and water quality.

 

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