Water scarcity has become a persistent problem in Gopeshwar and other hill districts of the Indian State of Uttarakhand. An important township in Chamoli, Gopeshwar falls in the Balkhila watershed and what is also part of the wider Alaknanda basin.
Coping with change: Watersheds, seasonal rivers and livelihoods in the Indian Himalayas
The Balkhila watershed descends from as high as 4,000 m among the peaks of the Himalayas and is home to hillside communities that span between 20 and 25 villages.
The Gopeshwar and Mandal valley are the most densely populated of the basin. Agriculture is the main occupation and the most grown crops and vegetables are paddy, wheat, manduwa, pulses, millets, potato, pumpkin, cucumber, and brinjal. Livestock farming, horticulture, sericulture, pisciculture, vegetable production, and apiculture contribute to the remaining livelihoods.
Most natural water sources that support water supply in this area have partially dried up over a period of time. Drying of streams and springs has in turn led to lowering of the water table in wells so that acute water shortage now occurs in many areas around Gopeshwar. In the absence of vegetative ground cover, monsoon rainwater sometimes leads to a sudden swelling of streams, which may result in flash floods in the hills and severe floods in the plains as well as drought in upstream areas, let alone soil erosion and landslides.
Self-organizing to adapt to new social, economic and environmental realities
New kinds of cooperation are thus needed to manage watersheds and solve local water problems as a means to ultimately enhancing security of poor people and their livelihoods. It is in this context that the project anticipates to demonstrate and scale up restoration and sustainable management of water resources and ecosystem services.
As a first step, a knowledge base will be created on risks to and vulnerability of micro-watersheds in the Himalayas. Secondly strategies for increased ecosystem and community resilience will be incorporated into an action plan and local efforts recognized through publication of ‘best practices’. Feedback will also be provided to policy makers, government and managers for informed policy making for resilient and diverse livelihoods by planning of infrastructure portfolios and investment in the natural infrastructure of ecosystems and micro-watersheds.