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Water Resour Manage (2012) 26:883907 DOI 10.


Environmental Changes and Sustainable Development of Water Resources in the Himalayan Headwaters of India
Prakash Chandra Tiwari Bhagwati Joshi

Received: 27 September 2010 / Accepted: 7 April 2011 / Published online: 17 May 2011 Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Abstract The nature of terrain imposes severe limitations on the scale of productive activities as well as on the efficiency of infrastructural facilities in the Indian Himalaya. As a result, biomass based subsistence agriculture constitutes the main source of rural livelihood. During the recent past, rural resource development practices have changed in response to population increase and the resultant increased demand on natural resources as well as increasing socio-economic and political marginalization. This has brought about rapid environmental changes which have reduced the groundwater recharge in the region. About 36% of springs have dried, heads of perennial streams have dried and water discharge in springs and streams has decreased considerably resulting into severe crisis of water for drinking as well as irrigation during the past 20 years. In addition to assessing the impact of recent environmental changes on water resources, this paper attempts to develop a community and user oriented framework for the sustainable development of water resources with a case illustration of Kosi headwater in Kumaon Lesser Himalaya, India. Keywords Rural resource use structure Climate change Land use changes Participatory resource management Spring sanctuaries Wasteland management 1 Introduction In the global picture, India is identified as a country where water scarcity is expected to grow considerably in the coming decades (Bandyopadhyay and Perveen 2002).

P. C. Tiwari (B ) Department of Geography, Kumaun University, Nainital, Uttarakhand, India e-mail: B. Joshi Department of Geography, Government Post Graduate College, Udham Singh Nagar, Uttarakhand, India e-mail:


P.C. Tiwari, B. Joshi

The Himalayas forms the tallest water tower of the world, where the mighty glaciers and mountain ranges constitute the source of the most of the rivers of north India. The regime of water resources in the Himalayas is likely to change rapidly, with respect to discharge rates, volumes and availability, primarily due to global climatic changes, as well as increasing population pressure (ICIMOD 2007). The impacts of rapid population growth in critical headwater areas have the potential to exert sharply accentuated pressures on the Himalayan water resources through intensification of agricultural land use, which in turn may lead to depletion of land and water resources in the region (Sharma et al. 2007; Rawat 2009). Given the importance of headwater areas for supplying water resources, it would therefore be in the interest of lowland and urban regions, with their greater populations and affluence, to support the ecological sustainability and economic viability of mountain regions so that their resources can be used and developed in a sustainable manner (Tiwari 2007; Viriroli and Weingartner 2003; ICIMOD 2007). During recent years, a variety of changes have emerged in the traditional resourceuse structure in the Indian Himalaya, mainly in response to population growth, and the resultant increased demand for food, fodder, grazing land, water and other natural resources, market forces and increasing socio-economic and political marginalization (Sharma et al. 2007; Rawat 2009; Tiwari 2010). This facilitated and also compelled people to utilize the critical natural resources, such as, land, water and forests beyond their ecological carrying capacity. Large-scale deforestation, mining and quarrying, extension of cultivation, excessive grazing, rapid urban growth and development of tourism contributed significantly to the depletion of natural resources (Ives 1989; Tiwari 1995, 2000, 2002, 2008, 2010; Tiwari and Joshi 1997, 2005, 2007, 2009). As a result, the water resources of the region are diminishing and depleting quickly due to the rapid land use changes and resultant reductions in groundwater recharge (Valdiya 1985; Tiwari 1995, 2000; Bisht and Tiwari 1996; Wasson et al. 2008; Jianchu et al. 2008). These hydrological imbalances are discernible in terms of: 1. Retreating glaciers and their diminishing hydrological regulatory effects (Bhandari and Nijampurkar 1988; Tiwari 1972; Tiwari and Jangpangi 1962; Mukhophadayay 2006; ICIMOD 2007; IPCC 2007; Rawat 2009); 2. The long-term decreasing trend of stream discharge (Rawat 1988, 2009; Tiwari 2008); 3. Diminishing discharge and drying up of springs (Valdiya and Bartarya 1991; Rawat 2009; Tiwari 1995, 2000, 2002, 2008, 2010; Tiwari and Joshi 2005, 2007, 2009); 4. Dwindling capacity of lakes (Khanka and Jalal 1984; Rawat 1987, 2009); and, 5. Human impacts on surface run-off flow systems and channel network capacity (Tiwari and Jangpangi 1962; Rawat 1988, 2009).

2 Headwaters and the Need for Their Management Headwaters are the source areas of streams and thus constitute the primary recharge source zones for both surface and groundwater. Thus, the headwaters are very critical for the conservation of land, water and forest resources, and for the sustainability of highland-lowland interactive ecosystems, and therefore need adequate protection and sustainable management of natural resources (Haigh 2002). Within Himalaya,

Environmental Changes and Sustainable Development of Water Resources


headwater areas are emerging as frontiers for anthropogenic interference and resource development activities leading to environmental disruptions and hydrological disturbances. The exploitation of headwater resources has not only threatened the livelihood security of communities through the rapid depletion of land, water and forest resources, but also affected the sustainability of downstream ecosystems (Maithani 1986). The downstream impacts of changes in the headwater regions are now clearly discernible in Indo-Gangetic Plains in terms of silting of river beds, increased incidence of floods, and decreased water discharge in rivers (Wasson et al. 2008; Tiwari 2000, 2002; Tiwari and Joshi 1997; Haigh 2002). The main objective of headwater management is therefore to develop an integrated approach to the sustainable development of headwater regions that is capable of addressing the needs of headwater communities for self-sustainability in environmental, economic and cultural terms. The primary aim of this paper is to assess the impact of the process of environmental degradation on water resources and to develop an integrated and participatory action plan for the conservation and sustainable development of water resources in the ecological, socio-economic and cultural backdrops of the Himalayan region, with a view to help local government departments in the formulation and implementation of water conservation and management policies and action plans in the region. This paper therefore outlines: An assessment of the water management needs and priorities of local government agencies at district and sub-district level in the Kosi headwater in Kumaon Lesser Himalaya; A detailed analysis and appraisal of land, water and forest resources, using Remote Sensing and Geographic Information System (GIS); Community resource utilization patterns in the context of varying socioeconomic situations; Local indigenous knowledge used for water conservation and evaluation of traditional water management systems; A GIS based integrated resource management framework for the sustainable development of water resources to be used by local government departments; and A working example of participatory water conservation action plan for the Kosi headwater.

3 The Study Area The headwater of the Kosi River (upstream Someshwer), which encompasses an area of 39.9 km2 (3,990 ha), lies between 1,4052,720 m altitude above mean sea level in the Kumaon Lesser Himalaya within the newly carved Himalayan State of Uttarakhand. This region has been selected for the present study (Figs. 1 and 2 and Table 1). It is one of the critical headwaters identified for priority conservation of water and other natural resources in Kumaon Lesser Himalaya (Tiwari 2002). The Kosi Catchment is situated in the district of Almora, which together with 12 other districts, constitute the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand. Kosi is one of the major rivers of the west Ramganga System of Kumaon Himalaya which ultimately drains into Ganges system. The total population in 2010 of the headwater basin was 12,776


P.C. Tiwari, B. Joshi

D h d Dehradun


New Delhi


Kosi Headwater

60 Km.





Cultivated Land with Slope 2o-15 15




2500 m

Cultivated Land with Slope 15 -25 o Cultivated Land with Slope 25 o-45o D i Drainage

Fig. 1 Location map

persons across 26 villages. The population in the headwater has increased by 70% during the last 20 years raising population density from 188 to as much as 320 persons per square kilometer which is very high for mountainous terrain (Table 2). As a result, the availability of per capita cultivated land declined from 0.10 to 0.07 ha, and the proportion of households with land holding size less than 1 ha increased from 83% in 1990 to 93% in 2010 (Table 2). These statistics show that the pressure on land and other natural resources has been increasing in the region. As in other parts of Kumaon Himalaya, the traditional process of natural resource development has been changing rapidly mainly in response to growth of population and resultant increased exploitation of natural resources for the past few decades. Consequently, the activities of cultivation, grazing and deforestation are extended over large areas of the region with the result that the proportion of degraded and wastelands have been increasing, and at present, these lands account for more than 22% of the total area of the Kosi headwater. Consequently, the critical natural resources, such as, land, forests and water have degreaded and depleted steadily and significantly which

Environmental Changes and Sustainable Development of Water Resources Fig. 2 Kosi headwater, absolute relief


Legend: Above 2100 m 1800-2100 m 1500 18000 m 1500-18000 B l Below 1500 m

is evinced by the fact that 36% natural springs in Kosi headwater have gone dry during the last 20 years (Table 2). 3.1 Methodology The information and data required for the study have been generated and collected from various primary and secondary sources. The primary data used in the present study has been generated through comprehensive field surveys and mapping,
Table 1 Environmental, socio-economic and natural resource profile

Environmental and socio-economic parameters Total area Absolute relief Average slope Total population Total villages Average per village population Population density Per capita cultivated land Forest area available to per ha cultivated land Grazing area available per cattle Average water fetching distance Average fodder collection distance Average fuel wood collection distance Average grazing distance Food deficit level Fodder deficit level Fuel-wood deficit level

Status 39.90 km2 1,4052,720 m 2 74 12,776 persons 26 491 persons 320 persons/km2 0.07 ha 2.3 ha 0.2 ha 1.5 km 4.7 km 6.5 km 5.5 km 42% 46% 44%

888 Table 2 Changes in Kosi headwaters Parameters Total population Population density Per capita land Land holding size below 1 ha No. of perennial natural springs Density of perennial streams Forest to cultivated land Irrigated land Year 1990 7,502 persons 188 prsons/km2 00.10 km2 85.00% 107 springs 3.97 km/km2 3.1 ha/ha 18.5% Year 2010

P.C. Tiwari, B. Joshi

% changes +70.30% +70.21% 30.00% 44.64% 36.00% 05.79% 25.81% 03.50%

12,776 persons 320 persons/km2 00.07 km2 93% 68 springs 3.74 km/km2 2.3 ha/ha 15%

observations, monitoring, and socio-economic surveys conducted during 20092010. The relevant secondary information was derived from high resolution satellite images (2010), Survey of India (SOI) Topographical Maps (1990), forest maps (1990 and 2010), cadastral maps (1990 and 2010), government land records (1990 and 2010), local Drinking Water and Irrigation Departments (1990 and 2010) etc. and used in the present work. The land use map for 1990 was prepared using Survey of India (SOI) Topographical Maps (SOI Topographical Maps are the only authentic maps in country showing ve broad land use categories with very high level of accuracy) at scale 1:50,000 as the satellite data for the year was not available due to certain practical reasons, and the entire study area was classified into four broad land use categories: (1) Forests, (2) Cultivated land, (3) Wasteland, and (4) Water-bodies. Whereas, LISS-III and PAN merged data of the Indian Remote Sensing Satellite (IRS 1C) has been used for the land use mapping for the year 2010 (Fig. 3). Digital interpretation techniques supported by on-screen visual recording and rectification have been used for this purpose. In order to enhance the interpretability of the remote sensing data for digital analysis the Normalized Difference Vegetation

Fig. 3 Current broad land use pattern



Community Forests Cultivated Land Reserved Forests Degraded & Wasteland Water Bodies

Environmental Changes and Sustainable Development of Water Resources


Index (NDVI) has been employed (Tiwari 2008). The land use maps of 1990 and 2010 have been converted into spatial layers and crossed with each other using Geographic Information System (GIS), and a land use change map of the study area during 19902010 was generated. Water flow in springs and streams in the region is monitored by the government departments of drinking water supply and irrigation, and the relevant information on these hydrological parameters have been obtained from these agencies for the period during 20052010 and used in the present study. The information with respect to environmental status of water resources (e.g., streams and springs), travel distances involved in fetching water, firewood and fodder, have been generated through intensive field surveys, mapping, and interviewing elderly people in the each of the villages of the study region using exclusively framed schedules and questionnaires. The resource deficit, sufficiency and surplus situations with respect to fodder and firewood productivity and have been determined by developing the estimates of production and demand employing standard techniques (Singh et al. 1984). In order to make the outcomes of the study more applicable and community oriented, detailed appraisal and mapping of the land, water and forest resources in all 26 villages of the Kosi headwater have been carried out with the involvement of local people (Fig. 3). Local communities have also been involved in making decisions with respect to the management of their water and other natural resources at a village level. The following methodological steps were followed for involving people in the process of resource appraisal and management: Village Resource Management Committees (VRMC) consisting of educated youth, women, school-teachers, Gram Pradhans (the heads of village level constitutional bodies) and representatives of local government agencies were constituted in each of the 26 villages to facilitate community participation in resource management. A series of meetings was held in each village with the members of Village Resource Management Committees in the village-school and at other common places, in which the process and benefits of participatory resource appraisal and management were explained. The members of VMRC were taken to the field along with a cadastral map (the detailed land record map of the village). Detailed information was obtained from the field with respect to the availability, distribution and utilization of natural resources. Later, each VRMC was helped to transfer the field-based information to the village cadastral map. With the help of the updated cadastral map, village resources, land use and wasteland maps were prepared in the presence of the members of VMRC. A common meeting of the villagers was organized in the village primary school in each of the villages, and the maps prepared by VMRCs were displayed so that the villagers could identify and locate their natural resources, and could provide their suggestions and feedback on their management. Peoples feedback and suggestions were recorded. Conflicts that arose with respect to the management of natural resources were analyzed with respect to the ecological and socio-economic context of villages. Local indigenous knowledge and management practices were thoroughly documented and incorporated in water management plan.


P.C. Tiwari, B. Joshi

The resource management action plan was reformulated incorporating local feedback and suggestions, and any conflicts were resolved in consultation with VRMC members. The final integrated resource development strategy was presented before an open meeting of representatives from all villages for their approval, in the presence of representatives from local government departments.

4 Results and Discussion 4.1 The Land Use Pattern The current land use pattern of the headwater has been broadly classified into the following five broad categories (Table 3 and Fig. 4): 4.1.1 Reserved Forests Out of the total geographical area of the headwater (12.80 km2 ) 32.30% is under reserved forests. The reserved forests are State Property Resource and they are situated outside village boundaries and supposed to be completely free from all kinds of resource use pressures and encroachments. However, traditionally, the rural communities living interspersed the reserved forests have enjoyed limited rights and concessions, and people are encroaching upon the reserved forests for fulfillment of their various resource needs including practicing agriculture in the surrounding areas of villages. 4.1.2 Village Forests Village forests which broadly include all those forests and forest land which fall inside the village boundary, except the private forests, are considered as Common Pool Resources (CPR). Interestingly, only 8.30 km2 of the total area of the headwater is under village forests, and the availability of merely 8.30 km2 of village forests for as many as 26 densely populated villages is highly inadequate in the region where forest based subsistence agriculture constitutes the main source of rural livelihood. Practically, this is the only forest available to local population for fulfillment of their all forest based resource needs. Nevertheless, as many as nine villages (out of

Table 3 Land use changes Land use classes Year 1990 Year 2010 Change Change Area (km2 ) % of total area Area (km2 ) % of total area (in km2 ) (in %) Reserved forest Village forest Private forest Cultivated land Wasteland Water resources Total 12.97 10.15 00.13 07.77 08.18 00.70 39.90 32.51 25.44 00.33 19.47 20.50 01.75 100.00 12.80 08.30 00.10 09.10 09.20 00.40 39.90 32.10 20.80 00.30 22.80 22.30 01.70 100.00 00.17 01.85 00.03 +01.33 +01.02 00.30 02.35 00.41 04.64 00.03 +03.33 +01.80 00.05 05.89

Environmental Changes and Sustainable Development of Water Resources

NGO working in the Region


, Women s Associations


Meetings & Leadership Development

Village Level Institution Building

Village Resource Management Committees

Participatory Resource Appraisal and Mapping

Presentat ion of Maps in Village Meetings

Feed-back, Needs, Problems & Developme nt Options

Conflict Resolution Resource Development Framework

Youth Clubs

Plan Implementation & Monitoring

Project Staff Working in the Area

Representatives of User Agencies

Fig. 4 Process of participatory resource appraisal and management

total 26) in the headwater do not have any village forest. As a result, a considerably large proportion of rural population in the region is practically dependent on reserved forests for the fulfillment of their various resource needs. 4.1.3 Cultivated Land The headwater represents one of the densely populated and intensively cultivated regions of Kumaon Himalaya. An area of 8.10 km2 or 22.80% is under cultivation of which only 15% is irrigated. The remaining cultivated land, mainly lying upslope and ridges is never irrigated because of non-availability of water. Although availability of arable land is severely limited, yet in the absence of other viable means of livelihood, dependence on agriculture in considerably high and intensity of cropping is very high. 4.1.4 Degraded and Wasteland A considerably large proportion of the geographical area of the region amounting to 9.20 km2 or 22.30% was characterized as degraded and wastelands. The degraded and wastelands mainly which mainly include degraded land, abandoned cultivated land, cultivable and uncultivable wasteland. 4.1.5 Water-Bodies A small area of 0.40 km2 or 1.70% is under water-bodies. The water-bodies in the region mainly include streams, springs, wetland around the perennial natural springs, ponds, water-tanks etc. As in other parts of Uttarakhand Himalaya, there is no land designated or categorized as pastures or grazing land. The common pool areas, such as, village forests, barren areas and fallow land are traditionally used as community grazing areas in the region.


P.C. Tiwari, B. Joshi

4.2 The Land Use Dynamics Results of land use change detection exercise revealed that out of total area (39.90 km2 ) of Kosi Headwater 10.26 km2 or 19.57% has changed from one land use to other during 19902010. Table 3 makes it clear that the cultivated land has increased 7.77 km2 in 1990 to 9.10 km2 in 2010, and thus registered an overall increase of 3.33% in the region. This increase in cultivated land has been brought mainly through the extension of agriculture in forests. The area under all categories of forests has declined from 23.25 km2 in 1990 to 21.20 km2 in 2010. The reserved, village and private forests respectively declined by 0.41%, 4.64% and 0.3% thus bringing a total decrease of 5.08% (2.05 km2 ) in the headwater. This decrease in forests land was mainly due to diversion of all categories of forests to agriculture and their conversion into degraded and wastelands. The degraded and wasteland has increased from 8.18 km2 or 20.50% in 1990 to 9.20 km2 or 22.30% in 2010 thus raising the proportion of wasteland by 1.80% in the region. The area under water-bodies in the headwater recorded a decline of 0.05% due to decrease in water level of streams and increase in area under dry stream-bed. 4.3 Natural Resource Profile of the Kosi Headwaters Land, water, and forest are the primary and most critical natural resources of the area. The natural resource profile for the study area was classified into the following four broad land use categories: cultivated land, forest, wasteland and water. These are discussed below: 4.3.1 Cultivated Land Although the availability of arable land is severely limited and the productivity is generally poor, agriculture constitutes the principal source of rural livelihood in the region. As much as 77% of the population is dependent on agriculture. Out of the total geographical area of the Kosi headwater 9.1 km2 (22.8%) is under agriculture (Table 3). A small proportion of this cultivated land that lies along the valleys of trunk streams, major tributaries and mid-slope zones of adjoining ridges is suitable for crop farming. The land under cultivation has been divided into three categories: 1. The low-lying valley floors and river terraces which are formed of deep alluvial soils with fine to very fine texture and slopes of 215 . Most of these lands are irrigated, and are under very intensive and productive cultivation (Figs. 1 and 2). 2. The mid-slope areas (1525 slope) with thin and coarse-textured soils are under extensive rain-fed cultivation with low productivity; and, 3. The up-slope areas (2545 slope), which are highly vulnerable to the processes of mass wasting and soil erosion, that are also under agriculture (Figs. 1 and 2). Wheat, paddy, potato, pulses, oilseeds and coarse local grains are the principal agricultural crops commonly grown in the region. With the recent increases in population, the pressure on agricultural land has been increasing. Consequently, the availability of per capita agricultural land has declined considerably, during the last 1520 years. Ashish (1983), while studying the agricultural and ecological problems of the Himalayan agro-ecosystem, recommended a minimum of 0.2 ha/person arable

Environmental Changes and Sustainable Development of Water Resources


land to practice agriculture on a sustainable basis. The availability of per capita arable land in the watershed was merely 0.10 ha in 1990, which has further declined to 0.07 ha in 2010 (Table 2). 4.3.2 Forests Out of the total Kosi headwater area, some 21.20 km2 or 53.20% is under forests which are comprised of reserved forest (the State Forests), village forests and private forests (Table 3). A large proportion of the forest area, particularly the village forests, is now highly degraded owing to increased resource use pressure for fuel-wood, fodder and grazing. The depleted nature of forest resources is reflected in the large (6.5 km) average travel distances by villagers to collect firewood for fuel (Table 1). 4.3.3 Wasteland Owing to various environmental and socio-economic factors over the past 20 years, parcels of cultivated land, forest and pastures have progressively deteriorated, leading to their conversion into degraded and wastelands. As a result, the productivity of rural ecosystem has declined considerably and the food and livelihood security of rural poor has been adversely affected. Some 9.20 km2 or 22.3% of the Kosi headwater is under wastelands which mainly include degraded land, abandoned cultivated land, cultivable and uncultivable wasteland (Table 3). Most of these wastelands have very high potential for increasing the productivity of rural ecosystem through their proper management and rehabilitation. 4.3.4 Water Resources There is a total of 107 springs and 26 km of stream-length in the Kosi headwater. The density of perennial streams in the region is 3.74 km/km2 . The water discharge of springs in the region ranges between 600 to 49,700 L day1 with an average flow of 16,950 L day1 . The master-stream discharges about 472,500 L day1 during dry seasons at its mouth near Someshwar. Each hectare of land in the region has, on an average, a water generating capacity of 118.5 L day1 . 4.4 Traditional Resource Utilization Structure The steep terrain imposes severe limitations on the scale of productive activities as well as on the efficiency of infrastructural facilities in the region. As a result, biomass-based (forest based) subsistence agriculture constitutes the main source of rural livelihood, even though the availability of arable land is severely limited and the productivity is poor. In order to preserve soil fertility and productivity of the land under sustained cropping in such an agro-ecosystem, there must be a net transfer of nutrients and energy from the forests to the arable land. This flow of nutrients and energy from forest to cultivated land in the Himalayan agro-ecosystem is mediated through livestock, which is usually in the form of stall-fed cattle, whose manure and labour is later applied to the cultivated land. Forest, livestock and arable land are therefore the three basic components of the Himalayan agro-ecosystem, in which forests are pivotal to the maintenance of crop production levels. On an average, one unit of agronomic production in the region involves nine units of energy from the surrounding forest ecosystem (Singh et al. 1984; Whittaker 1989).


P.C. Tiwari, B. Joshi

4.5 Community Resource Use Structure and Its Impact on Water Resources During the recent past, a variety of changes have emerged in the traditional land utilization pattern in response to population growth (which has averaged more than 3.5% per year during 19902010) and the resultant increased demand of agricultural land, pastures, fodder and fuel wood (Palni et al. 1998). These changes have pushed agriculture into the forests and marginal and sub-marginal areas. Consequently, there has been proportional increase in the cattle population. Singh et al. (1984) have recommended that in the Himalayan agro-ecosystem, 510 ha of forest area is required to meet the biomass requirements of 1 ha of arable land. In the Kosi headwater, the forest area available per hectare of agricultural land is merely 2.3 ha, and about 50% of these forests are in a highly degraded condition. Table 1 shows that the availability of grazing area (which includes village forests, barren areas and fallow land) in the region is 0.2 ha per beast against the ecologically recommended minimum 3.5 ha (Singh et al. 1984). This clearly shows that the anthropogenic stress on the forests of the region is very acute, and as a result, the reserved forests up to 7 km distance from the rural settlements are highly degraded and depleted. The impacts of these observed changes in community resource utilization structure are clearly discernible in terms of rapid land use changes as explained in the preceding section of the paper. Forests are being brought under cultivation due to increased demand of food and fodder. The marginal and sub-marginal cultivated land and pastures are turning into waste and degraded land owing to overexploitation and resultant decline in productivity (Table 3). The studies carried out in the Kosi catchment and also in other parts of Himalayan mountains investigated that the changes in land use pattern is one of the important factors responsible for hydrological disruptions and depletion of water resources in Himalaya. Pathak et al. (1983) while studying the partitioning of rainfall by certain forest stands in Kumaon Himalaya observed that well stock oak forest infiltrates nearly 70% of the total rainfall and thus significantly increase the ground water recharge. Rai and Sharma (1995, 1998) and Sharma et al. (2007) explored that degradation of forests and their conservation into degraded land contributed to reducing ground water recharge and resultant decreased water generating capacity of soil in several parts of Sikkim Himalaya. The works of Haigh and Rawat (1990), Rawat (1988, 2009), Mukhophadayay (2006), Tiwari (2008, 2010) and Verma and Kothyari (2005) proved that the amount of overland flow in considerably high in agricultural, barren and degraded land compared to the areas under forests in the catchments of Kosi and other rivers in Uttarakhand Himalaya. Investigations conducted in several other mountain ecosystems of the world also substantiated these findings (FAO 2005; Wasson et al. 2008). The present study revealed that out of the total of 107 springs of the Kosi headwater nearly 39 have completely dried up and more than 20% have become seasonal during the last 20 years, mainly due to large-scale deforestation, and resultant loss of water generating capacity of soil (Tiwari 2000; Rawat 2009). It was observed that more than 75% of dried springs are located in areas where the forests have been either been brought under agriculture or converted into degraded land. The application of change detection techniques using remote sensing data also revealed that a stream-length of 3.2 km has completely dried up out of the total of 26 km of stream length in the Kosi headwater due to rapid land use changes as a dried

Environmental Changes and Sustainable Development of Water Resources


stream-length of more than 2.5 km lies in waste and degraded lands. The degradation of land and forests is not only contributing to loss of groundwater recharge and resultant decline in water generating capacity of land, but also rendering the degraded and fragile mountain slopes highly vulnerable to landslides and other such natural hazards in the headwater. As many as 17 active landslides have been identified on the deforested and degraded slopes in the region. Moreover the rapid degradation of forests and resultant decline in the availability of water resources has increased the vulnerability of the region to resource deficiency resulting into food and livelihood insecurity. Currently, the region faces a huge deficit of food (42%), fodder (46%) and fuel wood (44%; Table 1). The people of the headwater have to walk up to 5, 7 and 2 km for the collection of fodder, fuel wood and water, respectively (Table 1). 4.6 Structure, Status and Utilization of Water Resource As in other Lesser Himalayan mountains, rain-fed streams originating from forested mountain slopes and natural springs constitute the water resources of Kosi headwater which are utilized for fulfilling all types of water requirements of the rural population inhibiting the region. The rural water supply structure in the headwater consists of two components: 4.6.1 Domestic Water Supply Domestic water supply includes water for drinking, bathing, cooking, washing utensils and house and ablution, and managed by local level unit of Drinking Water Department of Government of Uttarakhand. The Government of India (2005) has recommended norms of 40 L per capita per day (lpcd) water for humans to meet the domestic water requirements of rural population for implementing Rural Water Supply Schemes (RWSS) across the country. The domestic water supply includes availability of water for drinking (3 lpcd), bathing (15 lpcd), cooking (5 lpcd), washing utensils and house (7 lpcd) and ablution (10 lpcd) in rural areas. While formulating domestic water supply plans, the per capita water availability norms recommended by Government of India under RWSS are taken into account, however, the actual supply of water to rural population in the region depends on several local factors, particularly, the availability of water resources. As per Government of India norms the rural drinking water schemes have three constituents: (1) water source (which should be available with 100 m elevation around the village), (2) water storage, and (3) water distribution. As mentioned earlier there are only two sources of waterstreams and springs in the region. The water from these sources is either lifted through electricity or driven through gravity (depending upon several factors, such as, geographical locations of the source and supply, level of water discharge in the source, availability of adequate funds and economic feasibility of lifting water etc.) to the storage tanks, and from the storagetanks water is distributed to rural areas through public stand-posts (public water supply outlet). There is provision of one stand-post (with normal output of 12 L/min) each for 250 persons (Government of India 2005). As per the rural water supply structure and water providing norms the headwater requires 511,040 L/day water distributed to all 26 villages of the region through 52 public water supply stand-posts. However, it is not always and everywhere possible to


P.C. Tiwari, B. Joshi

fulfill these rural water supply norms totally or even partially due to certain practical reasons. The rural settlements are therefore classified into the following categories on the basis of the availability of domestic water: Fully Covered (FC): The villages where entire population is provided with drinking water as per the existing norms. Partially Covered (PC): Means that supply of drinking water is less than the existing norms and guidelines of Government of India, and or rural habitations which have a safe drinking water source at 100 m elevation, but the capacity of the system ranges between 10 to 40 lpcd. Not Covered (NC): The villages in which there is not even a single source of safe drinking water at an elevation of 100 m around the settlement, and villages where quantum of availability of safe water from any source is not enough to meet drinking and cooking needs (i.e. below 10 lpcd).

The results of the study indicated that currently, out of total 26 villages of the headwater only three fall in the category of fully covered, 21 situated in the mid slopes are partially covered and remaining two villages at higher elevations have been identified as not covered. Whereas, in the year 2002 the number of fully covered and partially covered, villages in the headwater was respectively, four and 22, and there was not a single village in the region falling in the category of not covered. Although, at present, the three fully covered villages situated along river Kosi have the comparative advantage of year round regular water supply, nevertheless these settlements are facing water scarcity during summer and dry winters. This is mainly because several hundred densely populated settlements including the largest mountainous townAlmoraof Uttarakhand situated in the catchment of Kosi river depend on this rain-fed and dwindling river for their all sorts of water needs. This clearly indicates that increasing demand of water in domestic and agricultural sectors has already stressed the depleting water resources of the river and also amplified water-use conflicts. Furthermore, the ongoing hydrological disruptions are likely to increase the water stress and cause drastic reduction in freshwater availability, particularly during dry summers which will have serious implications for water resources in the entire catchment. The partially covered 21 villages situated in the mid slopes have been facing acute shortage of water mainly due to depletion of water sources (declining water-availability in springs and streams, drying of springs and stream heads in the region). Generally, as one moves up from the valley floors to the mid and up-slope areas and ridges, the availability water decreases due to increased surface gradient and low water recharge (Tiwari 2000). The villages which currently fall in the category of not covered were having partial water supply in 2002, but owing to drying up of the then available sources of water these settlements have been facing serious water crisis, and the people have to travel 24 km to fetch water.

4.6.2 Minor Irrigation Out of the total cultivated land of Kosi headwater (9.10 km2 ) only about 15% is irrigated even though more than 77% population is solely dependent on agriculture

Environmental Changes and Sustainable Development of Water Resources


for its food and livelihood. As in case of domestic water supply streams and natural springs constitute the sources of water for irrigation. The water for irrigation is taken to the agricultural terraces through small gravity canals which are locally known as guls. These gravity canals are either drawn directly from streams or from tiny water-tanks in which spring-water and/or rain-water is collected and later used for irrigation. At present, out of total irrigated land 38% and 37% respectively is covered by canals and tanks. The irrigated cultivation is mainly confined to valley floors and other low-lying areas where the regular supply of water for irrigation is available year round. The irrigated land registered a decline of nearly 3.5% during the last 20 years due to decline of water flow in water sources and owing to the practical water delivery problems discussed previously. The study made is clear that the entire Kosi headwater is now facing severe water deficiency which is evinced by inadequate or even non-availability of water for various domestic needs and decline of irrigated land in the region. The main reason investigated for increasing scarcity of water for both domestic and irrigation was the rapid depletion of water resources in the watershed. However, it was also observed that improper management, lack of effective conservation measures and inappropriate utilization of available water resources are also contributing towards increased water-stress in the region to some extent. For instance, no measures have so far been taken for converting huge amount of run-off during monsoon season into water resource, wider rain-water harvesting, and inter-catchment transfer of water (particularly transfer of water from snow-fed rivers to rain-fed water scarcity basins) for meeting the growing demand of drinking and irrigation water, and even effective strategies for replenishing, regeneration and conservation of dwindling water resources are extremely lacking in the entire region. Furthermore, it was observed during the field surveys that in a number of villages, the water supply is irregular and partial mainly due to inappropriate maintenance and inefficient governance of water supply system causing great hardship to local people and resulting in the underdevelopment of the entire region. 4.7 Framework for the Conservation and Management of Water Resources It is clear from the preceding discussion that changes in the traditional resource utilization pattern and resultant land use changes are the principal factors responsible for the depletion of water resources in the region. The conservation of water resources is therefore, interlinked with rationalizing rural resource utilization patterns and management of land and forest resources in the region. It is therefore imperative to think in terms of integrated land use policies which are conservation oriented and also attune to community resource needs and developmental priorities. In view of this, a comprehensive resource management framework for the conservation of land, water and forest resources has been developed for application in the Kosi headwater. 4.7.1 Criteria for Water Resource Conservation and Management The study brought out the fact clearly that the land use changes and resultant deforestation is contributing significantly to the depletion and diminishing of land, water and forest resources and consequent increase in food and livelihood insecurity in the region. The conservation of land, forest and water resources and improving


P.C. Tiwari, B. Joshi

livelihood and food security are therefore the prime objective of the proposed water resource conservation framework in region. Besides, the Hill Development Task Force of the Planning Commission of India (2001) has recommended a set of scientific and socio-economic criteria for the integrated watershed management in the mountainous regions of the country. In view of this, the following guidelines and criteria have been adopted while formulating the water resource conservation strategy for Kosi headwater: Increasing Area under Forests: The area under forest need to be increased as this will not only decrease overland flow, increase groundwater recharge and thus replenish and regenerate the dwindling water resources, but also protect land from erosion, flash floods, landslides and other degradational processes. Additionally, the increase in forests will also enhance socio-economic sustainability of the region through increased availability of biomass for fuel-wood, fodder and compost manure. Conversion of Marginal & Sub-marginal Cultivated Land into Forests: The expansion of agriculture has been identified as one of the important driving forces of land use changes leading to rapid loss of forests in the headwater. Moreover, the marginal and sub-marginal cultivated land is neither conducive to resource conservation nor economically viable due to very low productivity. The transformation of marginal and sub-marginal agricultural land into forests, horticulture etc. would therefore facilitate the desired conservation of water and other natural resources. Generation of Alternative Livelihood Opportunities: Since, the productivity of traditional agricultural is very low and this is one of the important reasons of agricultural expansion, the identification of alternative opportunities of rural livelihood productivity, particularly in non-traditional sectors would help in conservation of critical natural resources and improvement of livelihood and food security in the region. Some households also emphasized the need for income generating resource development practices, such as, tea farming, horticulture, vegetable farming, cultivation of medicinal plants etc. during participatory resource appraisal process. Increasing Productivity of Biomass: In order to ensure successful implementation of the proposed water conservation programme through enhanced participation and active involvement of local people the action plan needs to be linked with the fulfillment of basic biomass needs, such as, fuel-wood, fodder, grazing, compost manure etc. This was also reflected in options expressed by the majority of the people in all the villages of the watershed during field surveys and participatory resource appraisal. Rehabilitation and Development of Degraded Land: The increasing proportion of degraded land due to degradation of forests and cultivated land has been assessed as one of the crucial factors responsible for depletion of water and other natural resources. The rehabilitation and sustainable development of degraded and wasteland through reforestation and afforestation, planting of water conserving and fuel-wood & fodder providing species, horticulture etc. would not only help in environmental restoration and resource conservation but would also increase productivity of biomass, improve availability of water and generate alternative means rural livelihood in the entire region.

Environmental Changes and Sustainable Development of Water Resources


4.8 Land Use Plan As mentioned in the preceding section, conservation, protection and increase in forested areas is essential for the conservation of water resources. This goal could be attained by protecting the reserved forests (State Forests) through increasing the productivity of village forests and afforestation of wasteland. In view of this, a land use plan has been designed, taking into consideration the geo-environmental framework, community needs and priorities, developmental requirements of local government departments and water conservation needs of the area (Table 4). It has been proposed that the total area under forests could be increased from 21.2 km2 to 24.4 km2 by the rehabilitation of wasteland, and the existing, more marginal cultivated land could be reduced by more than 3%. Horticulture has emerged as a widely preferred land use in the region, and therefore more than 7% of the total area of the headwater which is suitable for the cultivation of a variety of fruits, such as, apricot, apple, peach, pears, tea and a variety of citrus has been recommended to be brought under horticulture (Table 4). This would be possible through the management of wasteland and by diverting some proportion of existing cultivated land to horticulture. As much as 7.3% area of the headwater has been suggested to be brought directly under water conservation programmes through the development of spring sanctuaries, rehabilitation of the catchment areas of streams, construction of small check dams, ponds etc. (Table 4). 4.9 Integrated Water Conservation Action Plan The land use framework tailored for the region enabled the development of an integrated, community and user oriented action plan for the conservation and management of water resources in the Kosi headwater. The resource development action plan is based on consideration of ecological sustainability, socio-economic options and user requirements. The integrated resource management framework developed for the Kosi headwater divides the entire region into the following two primary resource management units (Table 4): 4.9.1 The Conservation Region The conservation region is an environmentally critical area which needs priority conservation measures for the sustainable development of water and other natural
Table 4 Proposed land use and resource management framework Proposed land use categories Reserved forest Village forest Private forests Cultivated land Wasteland Horticulture Waterbodies Total Area (km2 ) 12.80 11.50 00.10 07.80 01.80 03.00 02.90 39.90 % of total area 32.08 28.82 00.25 19.55 04.51 07.52 07.27 100.00 Proposed allocation to conservation/development region 100% under conservation region 4% under conservation region 100% under development region 100% under development region 100% under development region 100% under development region 100% under conservation region 40.6% under conservation region 59.4% under development region


P.C. Tiwari, B. Joshi

resources in the entire watershed. Nearly 40.6% of the Kosi headwater has been delineated as a conservation zone (Table 4). The conservation region has been proposed to be constituted by: (1) the entire reserved forest area (32.1%); (2) areas under village forests which are vital for the conservation of water, land, and biodiversity (0.5%); (3) catchment areas around spring and stream-heads (7%); and (4) erosion and land slide prone areas (1%; Table 4). This region would provide ecological services to the rest of the headwater in terms of water and other natural resources through conservation oriented land use and minimization of human impacts. Since the reserved forests and other forest areas falling within the boundary of the conservation region are typically in a highly degraded condition, afforestation programs should be launched for the regeneration of forests through the participation of local rural communities. Particular emphasis should be given on the planting and regeneration of water conserving species, such as oak (Qquercus leucotrichophora) which grows naturally above 1,500 m altitude in the region. But, oak being the highly preferred tree for fodder as well as fuel wood, is depleting rapidly. The areas around springs and the source areas of streams should be developed as spring sanctuaries (Valdiya and Bartarya 1991; Rawat 2009) for the effective conservation and replenishment of water resources, as these areas constitute recharge zones. Grazing and lopping should be controlled and regulated by increasing the productivity of fuel wood and fodder in other areas such as wasteland and village forests falling outside the boundary of the conservation region.

4.9.2 The Development Region The remaining area (59.4%) of the watershed was assessed to be suitable for resource development and increasing the productivity of rural livelihood. This area was designated as the development region (Table 3). The main components of the development region are as follows: The area of agricultural land was recommended to be reduced from the existing 22.7% to 19.4% by diverting 3.3% of marginal and sub-marginal cultivated land to horticulture, tea farming and to the cultivation of medicinal plants. These lands have been found to be quite suitable for such development practices. These activities are not only environmentally friendly, but would also contribute towards improving rural livelihood and increasing the income of rural communities. Further, the local people are also interested in pursuing these nontraditional farming sectors. Wasteland management emerged as one of the most crucial components of the water conservation programmes in the region. As much as 7.9% of the current wasteland area has been proposed to be developed through afforestation programmes, mainly by planting water conserving, fodder and fuel wood species. This will bring more than 25% of the total area of the headwater under village (community) forests, and therefore facilitate the conservation of water resources besides increasing the availability of fodder and fuel-wood in the villages. The increased productivity of these resources within the villages will in turn facilitate the conservation of reserved forests which are currently in a highly degraded condition owing to scarcity of biomass resources in villages.

Environmental Changes and Sustainable Development of Water Resources


More than 4.5% of the total area of wasteland has been suggested to be used as grazing areas until the rural communities are able to support stall feeding of cattle. Water conservation programmes, such as the development of spring sanctuaries, rehabilitation of catchment areas for streams, construction of small check-dams and ponds, should be formulated and implemented in all land use categories in the development region.

4.10 Application of Traditional Water Conservation and Management System As in other parts of Kumaon Hmalaya, the rural communities in the region have evolved their own traditional system of water management based on local indigenous knowledge. However, this knowledge has been eroded due to significant socioeconomic transformations and weakening of local grass-root institutions during recent years. Water, being a scarce and critical natural resource in the region, its local management system was very comprehensive, systematic and self-sustainable. In the present study, the traditional water management systems for the area have been documented, evaluated and incorporated in the water conservation action plan designed for the study area. The proposed water management system includes the following components: Traditionally, the water resources in the region are assigned very ethical and religious values, and as a rule, cleanliness has to be maintained at the water source. The maintenance and conservation of the water resources are the essential components of the traditional management system. The user-households clean the water sources, particularly the springs, guls (small mountain canals) and tanks once a week without any outside help. The repair of the water sources is carried out using local traditional knowledge and through internal cooperation and contributions in cash or kind. The villagers have a very good understanding of the traditional water conservation techniques. The villagers themselves rehabilitate the catchment area of springs and streams, particularly through plantation of water conserving trees. The proposed water conservation and management framework specifically incorporated provisions that the construction and maintenance of tanks, guls, ponds, check dams and water driven flour mills be undertaken by the local rural communities themselves using local indigenous knowledge under the supervision of VMRC. The beneficiaries can contribute in terms of labour, cash or kind (e.g. by providing material for construction, food to people engaged in the construction). The utilization of water resources is to be governed by traditional well-accepted regulations. Due to the scarcity of water for irrigation in the region, irrigation rosters will be determined for each beneficiary household, with the ability to trade rostered irrigation allocations as required. For domestic water requirements, all the households of a village were assigned to the nearest one or two springs according to the spatial distribution of perennial springs in the village. However, the water sources, particularly the streams, and springs located at long distances can be used by all households for all purposes. One of the remarkable aspects of this traditional water resource management system is that the use of


P.C. Tiwari, B. Joshi

different springs for drinking water, irrigation, washing clothes etc. in a village is clearly defined and categorized in every village.

4.11 Proposed Water Conservation and Resource Management Action Plan The main objective of the proposed water conservation framework is to increase the availability of water in the headwater through the regeneration and replenishment of existing dwindling water sources (e.g., springs and streams). This can be attained through evolving an integrated mechanism for sustainable utilization of natural resources and protecting the critical natural components from further depletion and degradation. The desired conservation of critical natural resources would rely upon the generation of environmentally conducive and economically viable alternative means of income generation and rural livelihood in the region. In view of this, an integrated natural resource management strategy consisting of a set of 15 conservation, and resource and livelihood improvement oriented activities was evolved for the region (Table 5). The proposed integrated natural resource development

Table 5 Proposed water conservation and resource management activities Serial no. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Proposed main water conservation and resource management activities in order of priority Spring sanctuaries, vegetable farming, irrigated agriculture, fodder-energy development Spring sanctuaries, catchment treatment, medicinal plants, fodder development Spring sanctuaries, check dams, horticulture, rain-fed agriculture, energy and fodder development Check dams, spring sanctuaries, tea farming, energy development, soil conservation, landslide control, energy development Catchment treatment, construction of mud ponds, tea farming, cultivation of medicinal plants, fodder development Spring sanctuaries, check dams, catchment treatment, vegetable farming, irrigated agriculture, fodder-energy development Spring sanctuaries, irrigated agriculture, fodder-energy development, horticulture Catchment treatment, vegetable farming, irrigated agriculture, fodder-energy development Mud ponds, check dams, spring sanctuaries, irrigated agriculture, tea farming Catchment treatment, energy and fodder development, horticulture Spring sanctuaries, irrigated agriculture, tea farming, horticulture, energy development Catchment treatment, spring sanctuaries, medicinal plants, fodder and energy development Spring sanctuaries, soil conservation, horticulture, tea farming, rain-fed agriculture Catchment treatment, check dams, vegetable farming, tea farming, fodder-energy development Number of villages 03 02 01 02 04 01

7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14

03 02 01 01 01 01 01 03

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plan is based on the (1) criteria identified for water resource conservation and management, (2) proposed land use plan, (3) observations and experiences gained through the participatory resource appraisal exercises conducted in all the 26 villages of the headwater, and (4) the recommendations of Village Resource Management Committees (VMRCs). 4.11.1 Conservation Action Plan The conservation action plan would promote the regeneration, protection and replenishing of natural resources using local traditional knowledge and involving rural people through (1) development of Spring Sanctuaries around the springs and sources of streams by planting water conserving trees and regulating resource utilization (Valdiya and Bartarya 1991; Rawat 1988, 2009), (2) Conservation of land and soil through afforestation, reforestation, controlled grazing etc. (3) Controlling landslides through stabilization of fragile slopes, (4) Conservation of water by constructing mud ponds, (5) building of check dams on the streams for checking accelerated erosion and conserving water, and (6) Rehabilitating stream-catchments through afforestation, reforestation, controlled grazing and regulated and controlled use of resources. 4.11.2 Rural Resource and Livelihood Improvement Action Plan The plan aims at (a) increasing the productivity of natural resources, particularly, food, fuel-wood and fodder, (b) generating alternative means of rural income and improving livelihood opportunities, and (c) ensuring the conservation of land, water and forest resources through facilitating the desired implementation conservation action plan in the headwater. The plan makes the provision of (1) intensive crop production in irrigated land, (2) cultivation of vegetables in irrigated land located near the market centers and roads, (3) cultivation of medicinal plants and tea and fruits (horticulture) in degraded areas and in existing marginal and sub-marginal cultivated land, (4) rehabilitation of degraded and wasteland through plantation of energy and fodder species, (5) improved agriculture in non-irrigated arable land. The combination of these activities recommended for all 26 villages of Kosi headwater is presented in Table 4. The table shows that a total of 14 resource management combinations emerged in all 26 villages of the headwaters. Besides the various water and land conservation and management options shown in Table 4, fodder and energy development, irrigated and rain-fed agriculture, cultivation of medicinal plants, tea farming, vegetable farming and horticulture emerged as main sectors of sustainable resource development in different villages. A detailed illustration of proposed integrated resource management framework for the village of Kwerali has been shown in Fig. 5. The village has a total population of 957 persons settled in mid-slopes and higher elevations. Nearly 27% of the area of Kwerali is wasteland, and only 24% of the total area is under forests which is too little to cater for the water conservation and biomass requirements of the village. The village is currently facing a 34% deficit in food, 54% deficit in fuel wood and 61% deficit in fodder. Out of total 13 perennial natural springs three have gone dry and two have become seasonal during the last 20 years due to reduced groundwater recharge. At present, there are eight very low discharge natural springs and 4 streams


P.C. Tiwari, B. Joshi

Spring Sanctuaries Forests & Fodder Development Forests & Energy Development Horticulture & Tea Farming Agriculture Catchment Treatment, Check Dams, Ponds

500 m

500 m

Fig. 5 Kosi headwater, Village Kwerali, participatory water and natural resource management plan

in Kwerali (Fig. 5). The village falls in the category of Partially Covered in term of water supply and is facing very high scarcity of drinking water. Since, the master stream and all its three tributary channels and three existing natural springs are located on an average 200 m below the human habitations in the village; it has not been possible to lift their water for a population of less than 1000 persons mainly on the ground of economic viability. Secondly, there were 10 perennial springs situated just above the village about 20 years back generating enough water for nearly half of the current population. But, currently, only five of the eight existing natural springs are being used for providing domestic water as they are located 50100 m above the settlements. But, the discharge of these springs has reduced considerably during recent past, and they altogether generate on an average approximately only 26 lpcd water which is much less than the prescribed norms of Government of India. As a result, the people the village are compelled to fetch water from the streams and low discharge springs located between 1.5 and 3.0 down-slopes the human settlements. The water of the main stream flowing across the village and three low lying springs is used for irrigating a small proportion of the cultivated land situated along its bank. However, the proportion of irrigated cultivated land decreased by about 4% during the last 20 years mainly due to reduced water discharge in source streams and springs. An analysis of land capability carried out in the village revealed that the entire area identified as wasteland in Kwerali is suitable for the development of fodder, energy, and planting of water conserving species. In this regard, some 5% of the

Environmental Changes and Sustainable Development of Water Resources


area of the village has been proposed to be brought under spring sanctuaries, 9% under catchment treatment measures, as much as 50% under forests, energy and fodder development, 11% under horticulture and tea farming, and only 25% of the total area has been suggested to kept for agriculture (Fig. 5). The proposed water conservation measures are expected to generate the following natural and socio-economic benefits: (1) restore natural environment and ecosystem services, (2) enhance the availability water for domestic as well as for irrigation, (3) improve sanitation and health conditions (4) increase the productivity of rural resources, and (5) reduce the vulnerability of rural population of the region to food and livelihood insecurity. Since, the proposed water conservation framework is based on the (1) priority conservation and developmental requirements of the region, (2) developmental needs of local government agencies, and (3) recommendations of the Village Resource Management Committees (VMRCs), there is very high probability of its implementation in the headwater in near future.

5 Conclusions It is clear that the water resources of Kosi headwater are diminishing rapidly due to rapid changes in resource utilization structures and the resultant geo-hydrological disturbances. As a result, springs are drying out and the discharge of streams is decreasing. These geo-hydrological imbalances have a large impact on natural ecosystems as well as on the sustainability of rural communities. The rural communities are dependent on forests not only for the fulfillment of their basic resource needs but also for their livelihood. It is therefore, not practically possible to conserve natural resources, such as water, without considering the needs of local communities. Hence, the environmental conservation and resource development programmes in the region must be people and development oriented. In view of this, the conservation of water resources in the region is complex as it is essentially associated with the management of land and forests. Clearly, the goal of sustainable development of water resources in the Indian Himalayan headwaters cannot be attained through a sectoral approach. It is therefore imperative to analyze all crucial issues related to the conservation and management of water resources in a holistic manner by considering water conservation and management as one of the essential components of overall land use and resource development policies. Community involvement through Village Resource Management Committees and village meetings is essential to enable the success of management actions designed to improve the productivity of scarce land and water resources and thereby bring about improvements in rural livelihood.

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