Watershed Approach

Watershed Approach

                        Over the last 50 years, there have been many variations in conceptual modes, objectives and implementation modes of watershed programmes.  The initial protection oriented approach got enlarged to restoration of degraded areas and then to protection-cum-production oriented objectives of related natural resources and eco-restoration.  There has been a gradual change from beneficiary oriented approach to area based approach (Watershed approach).  Watershed concept is an integrated approach of harmonized use of natural resources like land, water, vegetation, livestock, fisheries and human resources.

From the year 1995-96, Watershed Based Approach was introduced for implementation of activities.  Under this scheme, the Resource Information of Watersheds are gathered and analyzed trough Remote Sensing Techniques in coordination with the Indian Space Research Organization, Bangalore and Institute of Remote Sensing, Anna University, Chennai.

Watershed “a hydrological unit of an area draining to a common outlet point” is recognized an ideal unit for planning and development of land, water and forest resources.  For better coordination and implementation of schemes, the delineated prioritized macro watersheds are further sub divided into micro watersheds each covering an area of 300-500 Ha.  The concept of watershed and its level of concern is evident by the wide variety of programmes and institutions involved in the study and management of watersheds. 

                        Watershed meetings with the farmers in villages are conducted regularly to explain the purpose of the programmes, get their feed backs etc.  Participatory Rural Appraisal (PRA) exercises to gather information, diagnose their problems, needs and priorities to arrive at a common outline of watershed development plan plays an important role in the process of watershed planning.  Local level people institutions such as Watershed Association, Watershed Committee and user groups are formed, bye-laws framed and society is registered for day to day running, management and distribution of benefits and creates working capital through revenue generation, people contribution, etc., for repair and maintenance of the works.  This will create self sustaining local institution to take over the activities after withdrawal of the project.

                        The Nilgiris district is drained by major rivers like Bhavani, Moyar and Kabini which are the tributaries of Cauvery and Pandiar respectively and Punnam Puzha, Karim Puzha and Chaliyar of Chaliyar basin.  The entire district has been delineated into 75 major watersheds on the basis of the above drainage pattern and is detailed as follows.

Sl. No.


Sub Catchment

Watersheds Code Nos.

Total No.


Lower Bhavani

Lower Bhavani

1 to 8



Lower Bhavani


37 to 75




Upper Bhavani

16 to 18



Kundah & Geddai


9 to 15



Chaliyar River Basin


19 to 36







With the recommendations / guidelines envisaged under “Common Approach Guidelines for Watershed Management”, the approaches for execution of works are adopted as follows.

    • Involvement of beneficiaries in execution of the schemes by way of contribution as 5% for SC/ST and 10% for non-SC/ST in form of cash / materials / labour.
    • All the beneficiary oriented schemes viz. formation of bench terraces, terrace support wall, staggered trenching, collection well etc., shall be executed through beneficiaries / watershed associations only
    • Selection of sites for construction of check dams, water harvesting structures, channel alignment works etc., will be done in consultation with the farmers and execution will be directly supervised by them
    • For the selection of beneficiaries for land based activities, the poorest of the poor will be assisted on priority
    • The concept of “joint forestry management” is being adopted for protection, restoration and upgradation of forest areas
    • Comprehensive watershed plans phased over a period of 5 years for selected watersheds are being done with the involvement of NGOs, watershed associations and local people along with the sectoral heads
    • The plans are formulated in such a way that the area based approach is given top priority, there by allocating 60% of the outlay in the selected priority watershed areas and 40% in the non priority watershed areas
    • Transparency in the execution of works will be given top most priority.  In order to ensure this, dissemination of information will be done in such a way that even a layman can monitor the quality of execution