Access to the Harvested Rainwater

J. Venkateswarlu, Y.V.R. Reddy and G. Sastry


Rainwater harvesting through pre-determined structures had been a major activity in the watershed development programme (WDP) of the Ministry of Agriculture (NWDPRA) and Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD) of the Government of India (GoI) which is being implemented largely by the state governments and to some extent by Non-governmental Organizations (NGOs).  There had been some international agencies (IA) and some of the research organizations (ICAR) that have also been associated with WDPs.

At the outset it may have to be mentioned that the WDPs implemented upto March, 2002  are largely area development based approaches.  Essentially landed peasantry are the primary stakeholders. A large chunk of the money (upto 80%) was spent on ‘works’ which included soil conservation (SC) and rainwater harvesting structures (RWHSs).  In some states the ‘works’ were essentially RWHSs.

In a study on 31 watersheds distributed all over the country representing three agroclimatic conditions and implemented by the five agencies, the access to the harvested rainwater to the various stakeholders in the watersheds was examined. In all, 10 farmers each belonging to marginal, small, medium and large categories were selected per watershed.  For a comparison similar number of farmers were selected in the adjoining non-watershed area for each of the watersheds. All the data were collected during 2001-2002, that is after completion of the WDPs.


There is an increase in the gross operational area, in the watershed areas over the non-watershed areas.  While there is a decrease in rainfed area under crops, there is increase in irrigated areas over the non-watershed areas. The overall increase in groundwater in the study was 1.58 m. as the rainfall increased and as the soil texture became lighter.

Information on the perceptions on impact of watershed on increased water availability was collected from farmers through interviews, both from watershed areas as well as non watershed areas.  The responses clearly establish that the watershed farmers could see the advantage of the WDP over the non-watershed farmers in the rise of groundwater.

Among the watershed farmers, the LMF saw greater advantage over the SMF. The large and medium farmers (LMF) were accessing more water as compared to small and marginal farmers (SMF) under the WDP.  In irrigated area, it was observed there was a general surge to enhance area under irrigation.  But the LMF still had the advantage over SMF in accessing more harvested water.

Utilisation of harvested water

The use for which harvested water is taken up was examined. The data suggest that SMF’s first option is to recharge groundwater.  On the other hand LMF have multiple options in use of harvested water with equal emphasis.  However, most times the harvested water is used in the routine way by growing crops even with high water requirements (eg. Sugarcane, Rice, Wheat).  A substantive example of proper water use from wells / bore wells on large scale comes from Rajasthan.  Many farmers take mustard in lieu of wheat.  Now Rajasthan is number one producer of mustard in the country (Venkateswarlu, 2003).


To conclude, in the watershed programme, equity is not achieved and the LMF being more benefited.  Also, the programme was land based and LMF obtained more funds for improving their holdings.  The CPR management, livelihood support systems and empowerment of the poor need more attention to reduce the gap in the share of the benefits of the programme.  And that is what the revised guidelines are purported to achieve. It is here that we like to point out the need for reform in water sector as done by Zimbabwe in January 2000 (Lang 2002).  Through the Water Act, Zimbabwe made the country’s water resources accessible to all its citizens on are equitable and fair basis.  Then not only the SMF would get justice, but the landless would also be benefited.


  We acknowledge with thanks the funding of the study under NATP through ROPS 14 and 14 A by ICAR, New Delhi.

J. Venkateswarlu, Freelance Consultant, 26 SBI Colony, Gandhi Nagar, Hyderabad 500 080 Y.V.R. Reddy and G. Sastry, Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture  Santoshnagar, Hyderabad 500 059


Lang, H. (2002) When people agree on fair access to water.   Agriculture and rural development  2, 48-49.

Venkateswarlu, J. (2003)  Four water concept : The new paradigm for IGNP, Proc.  Sustainable development of arid ecosystem.   CAZRI, Jodhpur.

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