Rain Water Harvesting for Sustainable Development: A case Study from Drought Prone Bundelkhand Region of India

S.P.Tiwari, Dev Narayan, D.G. Durbude, Om Prakash, H. Biswas, M.N. Ramesha, P.P. Adhikary and Monalisha Pramanik
Central Soil and water Conservation Research and training Institute, Research Centre, Datia (MP)

Rain water harvesting (RWH) is a vital component of all integrated watershed management programmes (IWMPs ) running in India and considered as a boon for livelihood and food security in rainfed areas particularly in drought prone Bundelkhand region, spread over in 7.04 m ha area of central India. Bundelkhand region is characterized by semi-arid tropical climate with red and black soils and is spread over in 6 districts of Madhya Pradesh and 7 districts of Uttar Pradesh in central India. It is one among the most degraded ecosystem characterized by undulated and rugged topography, highly eroded and dissected land, poor soil fertility, scarce ground water resource, erratic distribution of rainfall, heavy biotic pressure, inadequate vegetation cover and frequent crop failure, resulting in scarcity of food and fuel (Palsania,2011). According to the forest survey of India it is one of the most backward and disadvantaged region of the country supporting 15.62 million human and 8.36 million animal population with a forest cover of 1.24 m ha (Anon.,2005). The livelihood of the people in the region is primarily dependent on marginal agriculture and live stock rearing, however region has witnessed frequent drought /low rainfall situations in recent past. National Rainfed Area Authority (NRAA) has reported that intensity of droughts in Bundelkhand region has increased by three times during the period 1968 to 1992 then historically one drought in 16 years in 18th and 19th centuries (Anon., 2008).

While annual average rainfall in the region varies from 700-1200 mm, runoff is estimated to the tune of 10-70% depending on soils topography and land use conditions. In general, for constructing a farm pond, water yield worked out to be 0.2 ha-m for every 5 ha catchment area with flat land and 0.3 to 0.4 ha-m for every 5 ha catchment with sloping land (Sharda and Ojasvi 2005). Short duration high intensity rainfall pattern coupled with undulating topography in the region offer good opportunity of RWHs on ephemeral streams by constructing WHS called stop dam.

Co-existence of large number of less productive cattle and Anna Pratha, a social custom of letting loose their cattle after milking, resulted indiscriminate and uncontrolled grazing in the region, (Kumar, 2004). These stray cattle pose severe threats to the local vegetation growth, field crops and considered as great nuisance to the farmers in the regions rather than any other areas of the country. Due to this problem more than 70% of cultivated area in the region remains/ kept under fallow during kharif season and cropping intensity seldom reported >100% Further, due to over exploitation of harvested water from ponds/ WHS for irrigation purposes stray cattle also struggle for drinking water particularly during peak summer season. It is not out of place to mention that rain water harvesting and harnessing primarily for livestock (stray cattle) and animals is seldom given preference over irrigation purpose or invariably ignored in the watershed development programmes but felt that this component needs to be incorporated in entire watershed programmes (Anon., 2012) . Judicious utilization and management of stored water in WHSs is again a critical issue which largely depends on consensus among farmers/ UGs of a particular WHS. In this context this paper discusses about participatory development and utilization of WHSs constructed for supplemental irrigation and ground water recharge (GWR) and animals usage in a NWDPRA watershed and their benefits, taken up by CSWCRTI, RC Datia (MP) during 2009-2013 under MMA scheme of Ministry of Agriculture Govt of India.


Selection of Watershed:
Rain water harvesting in conjunction with other watershed interventions were taken up extensively in Jigna watershed, which was selected by CSWCRTI, RC Datia for development during 2009-2013 with the financial assistance of MoA, Govt of India. Watershed (620 ha) is a part of Bundelkhand region lies in district Datia of Madhya Pradesh, between 25037’00” to 250 30’30” N latitude and 780 20’30” to 780 23’30” E longitude at the altitude ranging from 240m to 280m above msl. It is 4.8 km long and 1.65 km wide with 3:1 length: width ratio looking elongate in shape with drainage density of 2.31 km/km2. Inspite of long term annual average rainfall of the tune of 835.5 mm distributed over 39 days, the uncertainty and erratic pattern of rainfall coupled with frequent long dry spells often caused crop failures in normal rainfall years. On the other hand this region faced crucial water deficit/drought situation in recent past which leads to severe scarcity of water for drinking as well as for agriculture and other purposes. Deviation in rainfall from its long term average observed in recent past and during development of watershed period is given in Table-1. It revealed from the table that out of the nine years 6 years observed less rainfall. Due to the consecutive less rainfall an ancient village pond (16.7 ha) dried up in the years 2004-08 and ground water table reportedly went down substantially in wells and tube wells, otherwise could provide supplemental irrigation to an area of about 50 ha in normal years.

Table-1: Deviation in Rainfall (mm) and rainy days (number) from long term annual average, in recent past including project period (2005-2013) at Research Centre Datia



(Jan. –Dec.)

Rainfall (mm)

Deviation (mm)

Percent deviation

Rainy days




Percent deviation
































































Long term annual average: Rainfall-835.5 mm and Rainy days-39.


Development process: PRA
Watershed development plan was prepared by involving the community. Since agriculture and livestock rearing is a primary livelihood in the watershed area, participatory rural appraisal (PRA) conducted for identification and prioritization of the problems clearly focused on two priority sectors pertaining to development of water resources i.e.

RWH for supplementary irrigation and ground water recharge purpose and
RWH and harnessing for cattle /livestock particularly in grazing area.

With these twin objectives, need based RWH structures were planned scientifically in the watershed area complementary to other watershed interventions for sustainable development.

Water resource Development:

For supplementary irrigation and ground water recharge purpose:
During the project period an additional storage capacity of the tune 26105 cum was generated in the watershed by construction of new as well as by renovation of existing WHSs become defunct due to improper maintenance etc. While three new check dams were constructed across the drainage channel and one existing defunct stop dam, due to side scouring was repaired and made functional on community land two WHSs were constructed on the private farmers field as per their specific demand following contribution norms by farmers given in the common guidelines of watershed management provided by Govt of India. Details of WHSs constructed in the watershed are given in Table-2.

Table: 2. Details of Water harvesting structures in the Jigna watershed during 2009-2013



Water Harvesting Structures





Major Purpose


CD cum weir-I



Check erosion & GWR


WHS-II (repaired)



Supplementary irrigation





Supplementary irrigation


Percolation stop dam



GWR & Suppl. Irrigation


CD cum weir-II



Check erosion and GWR


CD cum weir-III



Check erosion and GWR


Gully plugs 10 Nos.



Gully stabilization &GWR


Check dam (2 Nos.)



GWR & Suppl. Irrigation





CD-Check dam;    GWR- Ground water recharge


For cattle/livestock purpose:
As emphasized during PRA, to meet the demand of drinking water of cattle/livestock an embankment cum dug out pond was constructed in the panchayat land /common pasture area located about 2 km away from the village habitation. In fact, watershed village panchayat Jigna did effort in this direction few years back by constructing an earthen embankment in community pasture area but failed to store sufficient water. As narrated above, prevailing Anna Pratha is a nuisance in the area. In this context it is perceived by the farmers that construction of a pond in community land would again be helpful in keeping the livestock engaged for a larger span of time in pasture area thus get reduce the pressure on agricultural fields. The details technical features of the constructed pond are presented in Table-3.

Table: 3 Technical features of an embankment cum dug out pond constructed in Community pastures land at Jigna watershed, Datia (MP).






Top of Pond  (m×m)

38 × 28

Bottom of Pond ((m×m)

30 × 20

Depth (m)


Dugout Capacity (cum)


Total Capacity (cum)


Catchment Area (ha)


Surplus water arrangement



Critical production issues and soil limitations:

Out of the total 365.3 ha area under agriculture in the watershed only 93.8 ha (25%) was under irrigation through existing ancient pond and wells etc. Major cultivated crops are Sesame, black gram, green gram and groundnut during kharif and mustard, gram and wheat in rabi season. Only about 35 ha area (10 %) is estimated under assured irrigation through wells/tube wells. Watershed soils area has both red and black soils. While red soils occurs at higher elevation black soils are restricted to lower reaches, which truly represents the typical red (Rakar and Parwa) and Black (Kabar and Mar) soils of the region and exhibits distinct heterogeneity with regards to texture, depth, fertility status and operational as well as management problems as described by Tiwari et. al., 2009.

Vegetation status:

The forest vegetation in the watershed is broadly grouped under tropical deciduous forest, sub grouped as 5B/C2 – Northern Dry Mixed Deciduous Forest, and 6B – Northern Tropical Thorn Forest. The natural vegetation consists of open scrub forest with scattered trees. Grasses, climbers and thorny shrubs found in the lower and middle storey. The major species in the open scrub area is Anogeissus pendula (kardhai). Other natural trees observed on farm bunds and fallow land are Madhuca latifolia, Azadirachta indica, Ziziphus jujube, Zizyphus mauritiana, Emblica officinalis, Mangifera indica, Butea monosperma, Acacia senegal, Acacia nilotica, Prosopis juliflora and Prosopis cineraria

Community set up and Livelihood

There were 403 families with an average of 5-7 members in each family in three villages/hamlets. Agriculture and cattle rearing is the primary livelihood in the watershed in which about 75 % of the villagers are engaged. About 20% population belongs to poor community and dependant on labour based livelihood in nearby areas and remaining 5% in other works. Out of the total population of live stock in the watershed 28% are cow and buffaloes and remaining 62% are goat, sheep etc.


Ground water availability:
Monitoring of water table depth in wells/tube wells from ground surface was taken up in the watershed at fortnightly/monthly interval. While average minimum and maximum water table depth in watershed during the month of June varied from 4.9 m to 12.5 m in the year 2012, the same varied from 1.83m to12.9 m in the year 2014. Temporal variation in water level depth in wells/tube wells from ground surface in the Jigna watershed is presented in Fig-1. It is very evident that ground water depth from surface has decreased overtime, thus indicated a positive trend towards increased availability of ground water in wells. Substantial increase in water yield of wells/tube wells has also been reported by number of farmers in the water particularly in the close vicinity/influence of the WHSs.

Crops yield and productivity:
Stored water in the WHS was used by farmers for supplemental irrigation to kharif and pre-sowing of rabi crops. Data collected from a user group of 25 farmers covering 44.17 ha area in the influence of WHS –I at pre and post construction phase are presented in Table-4. It is clear from the table that majority of farmer have switched over from mustard to wheat crop during rabi season due to increase in water availability for irrigation in well /tube wells. Total crop productivity from 44.17 ha land in terms of Wheat equivalent yield (WEY) increased by almost two fold from 996 quintal to 1836 quintal during rabi-season.

Water availability in embankment cum pond constructed for cattle/livestock.
Construction of this pond in the panchayat land with the basic purpose for cattle/livestock usage was very much appreciated by the watershed people. Success story of this pond started since its filling with water in first year of its construction and its immediate benefit recognized by the down below farmers in their defunct wells which could start yielding water and become functional otherwise they were dry since long. Out of the total live stock populations of about 6911 in the watershed, on an average approximately 10-15% livestock are more or less dependent for grazing in the panchayat and nearby other private lands lying fallow adjacent to this newly constructed pond. Based on random count estimate > 1000 livestock including major and minor ruminants comes to this pond daily (Table-5) at different spells of time.

Table-5: Beneficiary village community/families and cattle population dependent on dug out pond constructed in pasture land in Jigna watershed







Goat/ Sheep


(wild blue bulls, etc)

Beneficiary Communities







Bagla (25), Kumhar (5), Harijan (10), Yadav (8), Brahmin (10).


As per the farmer’s perception due to construction of this pond, (1) There is saving of about 3-4 hours a day otherwise spent in moving for search of water or forced to come back in village early. (2) Water in this pond keep grazing animals, nearby grazing area thus reduces pressure on crops etc. (3) increased number of animals and in milk production. Sample survey conducted for 60 cattle rearing farmers also indicated that size of herds and milk production increased in the watershed in the year 2013 then pre-project period.

Monitoring of water availability in this pond was started since September, 2012 (i.e. after second filling) at fortnightly/monthly interval. Initially in the beginning years of construction, water dried in the pond during peak summer season (May-June) but drying days reduced over consecutive years. However during last summer season of 2014 water remain available throughout the summer period ranging from 1.2 to 1.5 m and no drying was recorded.


The findings highlighted that beneficial effect of rain water harvesting (RWH) in Jigna watershed were quite evident in terms of conservation of precious water resource and increased productivity and proved that RWH through construction of need based structures and its efficient harnessing for specific purposes by involving community is a key for sustainable development, which may go a long way for conservation of natural resource and secure livelihood of poor farmers in drought prone Bundelkhand region of India.

Anonymous, 2005.State of Forest report-2005. Forest survey of India, Dehradun (UK) pp 171.
Anonymous, 2012. Report of the quinquennial review team (QRT) for the period 1.4.06 – 31.3.2012). CSWCRTI, Dehradun (UK). pp 109.
Annonymous, 2008. Report on drought mitigation strategy for Bundelkhand region of Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. National Rainfed area authority, New Delhi. pp 7.
Palsania D.R., Yadav R.S., Singh, R., Tewari R.K., Chaturvedi, O.P. and Dhyani, S.K., 2011. Resource appraisal of Garhkundar Dabur watershed in Bundelkhand region of Central India. Indian J. soil Cons. 39 (3)263-270.
Kumar, A., Maity, S.B. and Kundu, S.S., 2004. Livestock trends and grazing resources in Bundelkhand region of U.P. Indian Grassland and Fodder Research Institute Jhansi (UP).
Sharda, V.N. and Ojasvi, P.R., 2005. Water harvesting through watershed management in different agro-ecological regions of India. Indian J. Agric Sci. 75(12):722-729.
Tiwari, S.P., Narayan, D. and Biswas, H. 2009. Edaphic constraint vis-à-vis conservation practices for increasing productivity of rainfed lands of Bundelkhand region. Proc. of National Symp. on Conservation of natural resources for food and environmental security. CSWCRTI, RC Agra: pp 211-222.

Paper Submit - International conference on “Natural resource management for food security and rural livelihood ” to be held during 10-13.2.15 at New Delhi (India)

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