Revised Guidelines for Inclusion of Forest Areas under Integrated Wasteland Management Program (IWMP)

The Department of Land Resources under the Ministry of Rural Development in consultations with the National Rainfed Area Authority(NRAA) has issued revised guidelines on the inclusion of forest areas under the Integrated Wasteland Management Program (IWMP). As per the modifications in para IX of the Common Guidelines for Watershed Development Projects, 2008, in the Multi tier Approach, it has been proposed that there would be a multi tier ridge to valley sequenced approach which should be adopted towards the implementation of the Watershed Development Projects.

In the upper reaches, which are mostly hilly and forested, the onus of implementation of watershed management would mainly lie with the Forest Departments and the Joint Forest Management Committees (JFMCs). The higher reaches or the forests are actually where the water sources originate. The approach, therefore, will be to identify an area and first look at the forest and the hilly regions, in the upper water catchments wherever possible. When suitable treatment is undertaken in forest areas in upper catchments with the funding support from watershed development projects then the hardest part of the watershed is tackled. Forest department is managing structures such as check dams, contour-bunds etc. to arrest the erosion and degradation of the forests, which in turn, actually benefit the lower tiers.

Irrespective of the type of forests, the land forming integral part of the selected watershed project area having agriculture/wasteland and forest land use, the fringe-forest areas and the degraded areas needing treatment which have implications for the lower reaches of watershed in terms of runoff water yield, soil erosion and sedimentation, fodder, etc. should be part of the holistic watershed treatment plan, with major focus on soil and moisture conservation. Works undertaken in such forest areas can be funded through IWMP scheme to derive full advantage of the investments made.

The revised guidelines have stipulated that all efforts should be made to converge Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), Afforestation Schemes, etc. with IWMP for treatment of forest areas.

The main objectives of the IWMP is to restore the ecological balance by harnessing, conserving and developing degraded natural resources such as soil, vegetative cover and water. The outcomes are prevention of soil run-off, regeneration of natural vegetation, rain water harvesting and recharging of the ground water table. This enables multi-cropping and the introduction of diverse agro-based activities, which help to provide sustainable livelihoods to the people residing in the watershed area. It also promotes cost effective and proven technologies to support watershed management. The department of land resources was running three watershed programs namely the Integrated Wastelands Development Program(IWDP), Drought Prone Areas Program(DPAP), Desert Development Program (DDP) till 1.4.2008. Since then, they have been brought under a comprehensive program, the Integrated Watershed Management Program (IWMP) to be implemented under Common Guidelines on Watershed Development .

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