Is Narmada water being made to flow in Sabarmati not supplied to city of Ahmedabad? This has furthered the idea of river...
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The Center proposes to consolidate all watershed programmes under a single ministry. The aim of the new programme, called Hariyali, is to streamline work and avoid duplication. "I am totally in favour of the move," says N C Saxena, former secretary, planning commission. At present, three ministries run programmes related to watershed development, which mainly includes wasteland development by soil and water conservation and afforestation.
The watershed approach has been a part of the government's efforts to improve land and soil productivity since independence. Different programmes today have gone a long way from there. The ministry of environment and forests (moef) implements the Integrated Afforestation and Eco-development Schemes to develop degraded forests. The department of agriculture and cooperation implements the National Watershed Development Projects for Rain fed Areas. The ministry of rural development implements the Drought Prone Area Programme, the Drought Development Programme and the Integrated Wasteland Development Programme. In addition, several externally aided projects are also on.
The resulting confusion caused by a plethora of implementing agencies and programme goals was the basis of the unification plan (see: watershed programmes: a chronology). Says Surendra Singh, deputy director, Council for Advancement of People's Action and Rural Technology(an implementing agency of the rural development ministry), "The move is both positive and negative. Will one department be able to handle it? Another apprehension is about whether one rule for everywhere is applicable or not."
This apart, the involvement of panchayats as implementing agency worries experts. Says Anil C Shah, director, Development Support Center, an Ahmedabad-based non-governmental organisation (ngo) involved in water issues, "Now the government plans to give it to panchayats. It will be wrong. The programme approach is highly participatory and the present panchayat system is working as an organ of government. Also, regional issues should remain with stakeholders. It looks that this move is against decentralisation."
On their part, ministry officials are frankly unwilling to part with their respective development fiefdoms. Says R Chandra Mohan, Joint Secretary, moef, "We are opposed to the idea. We have the expertise of working in forest areas. It is also not clear how the land planning will be done by the Centre, if it is a state subject." P D Sharma, additional director general, natural resources management, Indian Council of Agricultural Research, New Delhi, informs, "We have the experience of 50 years in soil and water conservation. It should remain with our ministry. If it will go to rural development they will become the boss."
Most experts believe that the ministry of rural development -- which, they say, is pro-people and pro-poor -- is the best bet. But some disagree. Harnath Jagawat, director, N M Sadguru Water and Development Foundation, Dahod, Gujarat says, "The use of a single organisation at the central level will have serious implications. We should not experiment with the possible risk involved. There is nothing wrong in two ministries -- like agriculture and rural development -- dealing with the subject with clear-cut demarcation. Both have their strengths and weaknesses. He adds: "I must draw attention to the fact that, in the entire note (the proposal), there is no mention of ngos and their role in watershed development. We should not connive at the fact that the best of the watershed projects have been implemented by some ngos. But competent ngos should be involved at larger scale, and there should be ways to curb or eliminate incompetent ones."