This Himalayan Water Portal titled www.himalayanwater.org has been created with the collective efforts of many individuals and communities working at the grass root level in the Himalayan region. Himalaya Seva Sangh a Gandhian Organisation has only initiated the process and would like it to grow for sharing experiences and ideas and develop solidarity among the campaign groups.
About Himalaya Seva Sangh
Earlier known as the Border Areas Coordination Committee, the Himalaya Seva Sangh was setup by a number of Gandhian Organisations in 1962. Himalaya Seva Sangh is registered under the Registration of Societies act of 1860 vide registration certificate number 4498 dt: 7th April, 1970 after that it started functioning as an autonomous organization with the following main objectives. :-
to promote community action for Social and Economic Development in the Himalayan region;
to guide, coordinate and promote the activities of voluntary organizations and individual social workers working for socio-economic uplift of the people of that region.
The Principal activities of the Sangh are: -
Himalaya Seva Sangh Emphasis that :
Himalaya Seva Sangh is currently focusing on following issues :
I “Training of Youth on Gandhian Values”
Himalayan ecosystem and its people today face a massive challenge against the onslaught of Globalization and Privatization which are adversely effecting the environment, ecology and social economic health of the Himalayan communities. As a result of unplanned development and exploitation taking place in the Himalayan region the communities ling there have been badly effected causing lot of stress and unrest in the region. A lot of tension and violence is seen in the Himalayan communities for eg. I Kashmir, Northeast, Nepal and Tibet etc. There is a need to initiate a campaign for non violent, conflict resolution through a process of discussion and dialogue among conflicting communities and Interest groups. Himalaya Seva Sangh has been initiating this process at various levels and at different places in the Himalayan region. A strong need has always been felt to initiate new and young people into Gandhian Social action to keep the movement live and vibrant. Keeping this in mind Himalaya Seva Sangh in collaboration with its members, activists and partner organization has been organizing Gandhi Vichar Prashikshan Karyakram (A training Program for inducting new volunteers in to Gandhi Philosophy and action Program). Himalaya Seva Sangh in collaboration with Laxmi Ashram in Kausani, Himalaya Paryavaran Shiksha Sansthan in Uttarkashi and Tamulpur Anchalic Gram Daan Sangh in Assam has been organizing this training program for more than a decade.
This Program is of 9 months duration each batch consists of 10 -15 volunteers belonging to the Himalayan community and most of them committed and interested to work as social activists in their respective areas.
The Program consists of study, research and action part to equip the volunteers in an all round fashion while working in the communities on various issues with a Gandhian approach.
To expose the volunteers to various social and environmental movements going on in the country. Exposure trip are organized during this program to various field based development organizations working for the promotion of Khadi and village industries. They are also taken to get a good exposure in different parts of the country where Gandhian movement had its roots.
The course content comprises of study of Gandhian Principles and thoughts which touches all aspects of life in society. Students of this course are trained in methods and techniques of non violent conflict resolution and are prepared to deal with difficult and conflict situation in society.
Himalaya Seva Sangh is looking for support in term of ideas, experience and financial assistance to strengthen and run this program.
II "An Outreach Program for Mountain Children"
Himalaya Seva Sangh (HSS) is having an outreach program for 'Mountain Children'. The idea for initiating and developing a Child Support Program for the Himalayan Communities has evolved in the HSS team as a result of sustained dialogue and consultation with the local communities, social action groups and activists working on various community development programs in the region.
It has been felt by our co-workers and activists that although there are various programs and projects run by NGO's and Governmental organizations to uplift and enhance the status of women and children in the Himalayan region, there is a large section of child population which is left uncared and unattended by any social support or security mechanism. This section largely comprises of children belonging to the poor and marginalized communities that have been deprived of adequate job or employment opportunities with no or very little cultivable land belonging to them. As a result there is a lot of pressure on all members of the family including children to get involved in some or the other kind of economic activity for their survival. This pressure snatches away the innocent childhood from these children, denies them the basic right to education and forces them into a cruel world of hard labour.
We feel that there is a definite linkage between the social, economic and environmental pressures that the Himalayan communities are going through due to faulty developmental pattern adopted by our market driven consumerist society and the sufferings that the poor and marginalized women and children are going through. We feel it important to sensitize the community and prepare them by making them understand these linkages and organize them to assist this marginalized section of the Himalayan community.
There are also children who are left with no family support system and are forced by circumstances to work under difficult condition, often felt the need to form a system to be able to help this section of our society and hence we have initiated a Child Support Program which will gradually build up its resources and capacities to be able to extend a helping hand to these children in need.
III. “Strengthening of Gram Sabhas and Village Panchayats”
Himalaya Seva Sangh is guided by the Gandhian Principles and values of ‘Gram Swaraj’ (Village Self Rule) and is committed to promote democracy at the grass root levels so that the poorest of the poor is taken care of and are involved while implementing any Development Program. Himalaya Seva Sangh believes that the fruits of development can perculate to the last person in the Indian villages only if the village Panchayats are strengthened and Gram Sabhas empowered in the real sense in our society.
The challenges and problems faced by the Himalayan communities can be dealt with in an appropriate manner only if the village communities collectively decide to think and work for finding solutions. Himalaya Seva Sangh feels that Gandhiji’s Gram Swaraj or Village self rule can come in real terms in the villages only if the Gram Sabha, Panchayats and the community at large is animated, motivated and prepared to build a society where there is no discrimination on the basis of class, caste, creed or religion and collective decisions are taken to build community enterprise and farming in the mountain communities or the Himalayan villages. Himalaya Seva Sangh with the support of other partner Gandhian Organization and activists has been making efforts in this direction. Committed and selfless Gandhian workers have been supported by Himalaya Seva Sangh to work for strengthening Gram Sabhas and Village Panchayats while taking up various social and development program in the Himalayan communities.
By strengthening Gram Sabhas in the Himalayan region Himalaya Seva Sangh is –
IV “Efforts of Himalaya Seva Sangh (HSS) on Water Issues in theMountains.
As rightly and vocally expressed by people, water is the single most important resource for sustaining any form of life on the planet earth. It is however an irony that despite accepting the indispensability of this resource adequate efforts are not made for its planned development; perhaps due to its seemingly abundant, cheap and easy availability. Availability of water dictates the economic development of any region and is required alike for human existence, agro-horticultural initiatives and industrial growth. It is the distribution and movement of water that largely decides the productivity of land, as also the quality of life. The hilly Himalayan region is blessed with adequately high rainfall but an overwhelmingly high proportion of the same is restricted to the monsoon season. This results in paucity of water during non-monsoon months together with high rates of surface runoff that cause heavy land degradation and erosion. Even though water is available in the valleys the constraints of terrain forces overwhelmingly large proportion of the agricultural fields to be dependent upon rains alone.
With increasing population, changing lifestyles and growing commercial activities shortage of water is being faced in the entire mountainous region. Even in the river valleys potable water is not available in abundance; the river discharge being laden with huge volumes of silt and mud load both during summers (due to glacial melt) and monsoon (due to surface erosion).
The females in the mountains have to bear the brunt of water scarcity and they travel long distances braving the odds of high gradient for fetching water for household purposes as also for domestic animals.
Himalaya Seva Sangh is working on this problem through a multipronged strategy that attempts at making the best use of the available resource.
a) Recharge zone management for reducing erosion and enhancing spring yield together with soil moisture regime: Appreciative of the relationship between groundwater recharge and the spring yields the recharge zones of the springs were traditionally protected by the masses by devoting the forests to local deities and imposing religio-magical sanctions. Recharge pits or small water ponds (Chaalsin local parlance) were also maintained by the masses at crucial locations. Learning from the past Himalya Seva Sangh is one of the organizations that appreciate the intricacies of the hydrological cycle and gives adequate attention on the recharge zones of the springs for maximizing water availability in the region.
The atmospheric precipitation entering the ground surface adds to the groundwater reserves that feed the natural seepages around the valley slopes in the hills. The quantum of the rainwater entering the ground is a function of the duration of time for which the water gets opportunity of remaining at a particular altitude. This retention time is decided upon by the nature of vegetal cover, physical resistances to the flow of water on ground and the others. Chaalsrepresent the understanding of the groundwater regime and response of the local populations in their quest for augmenting spring discharge. Himalaya Seva Sangh through its partner organizations has undertaken extensive afforestation in the recharge zone of a large number of springs, brought about appreciable undergrowth and constructed physical hurdles for the flow of water and have constructed a number of Chaals). These measures have significantly increased the spring yields in some areas of our intervention.
b) Runoff control: Uncontrolled runoff of the surface water leads to erosion of the soil and often leads to landslides. Reduction of the pace of surface water flow by vegetative means and by erecting mechanical barriers promotes groundwater augmentation besides controlling erosion. A number of check dams have been constructed in the region by the community along with our partner organizations for this purpose apart from staggered trenches, bunds and recharge pits.
c) Spring rejuvenation for optimally utilizing the nature’s bounty: There exist a large number of natural seepages in the hills and many a habitations in the hills thrived on the discharge of these springs. Despite facing shortage of water the discharge of these seepages is not being utilized optimally and most of the discharge is wasted. If suitably collected and stored this water can augment household and irrigation needs of the masses. Himalaya Seva Sangh from the very beginning has been advocating conservation of this water through creation of appropriate storage capacity at the site of the seepage and designating these as Spring Rejuvenation Tanks.
In order to make productive use of the spring water for household and allied usage a number of spring rejuvenation tanks have been constructed. The storage capacity of these tanks is decided upon by the spring discharge and attempts are made to collect the overnight discharge in these tanks.
d) Rainwater harvesting for supplementing the available water: In the hills the topography promotes quick runoff and the water soon after its precipitation runs down slope well beyond the limits where it could be productively used and therefore it has to be conserved where it falls and has to be utilized optimally thereafter.
Conservation of the roof top runoff has been demonstrated as an economic and easy technique of augmenting water availability. A large number of Ferro-cement tanks of around 4,000 liters capacity have been constructed in the region for the collection rooftop rainwater runoff.
e) Extending irrigation facilities for improving crop yields: As agriculture is the mainstay of economy of the region creation of irrigation facility has an important bearing upon the quality of life of the masses. It was for improving the agricultural productivity of the area that a number of water harvesting structures for irrigation purposes has been erected in the region.
Apart from rejuvenating old water harvesting structures and repairing old canal network Himalaya Seva Sangh along with the community has also undertaken construction of new canals for bringing more lands under agriculture.
f) Water quality assessment for assuring portability: Himalaya Seva Sangh is taking up a drive for testing the various physio-chemical properties of the springs and other water sources for ascertaining the quality of the water routinely available to the villagers. In that, water samples of a number of natural springs would be observed and tested. Some survey’s by our partner organizations has indicated that acute acidity was found as a major problem in the region due to assimilation and concentration of heavy metal in the water.
In order to cure this problem Himalaya Seva Sangh has launched a program for detailed analysis to bring forth correlations of the water quality with the common ailments of the masses.
g) Water treatment for improving quality of life: Slow sand filter is an innovation for cost effectively making clean water available to the masses. The Slow sand filter works without any external energy source utilizing the gravitational gradient and supplies potable water to the masses at a rat of 6 liters per minute. This water can be subsequently supplied to the village through pipeline that can be laid specifically for this purpose. Detailed water quality tests can be conducted for both the incoming and the outgoing water. HSS could take technical expertise from professional organizations to implement this in a proper way.
h) “Pani Panchayat” (forum for discussing water issues): HSS has initiated forums like “Pani Panchayat” which works together with other social, cultural and political groups to take up the issue of people’s policy on water. The forums will be formed at the state and district level, represented by panchayat members, social workers and women of the village.
Conducting pilot studies on problems of significance to the Himalayan people, like deforestation, bonded labour, alcoholism, social evils etc.
Our affiliated institutions have been conducting balwadies and providing creches etc., in the tribal and other areas, with financial help from respective governments and others. Most of the institutions are engaged in activities pertaining to Khadi and Village Industries.
Organizing camps and workshops for exchange of experience in different regions of the Western and Eastern Himalaya, where social workers, academicians, students and youth participate in frank discussion. Along with lectures and cultural programmes, the participants also acquire first hand experience of fieldwork in the areas of social forestry and environmental protection.
Publishing a Newsletter - 'Himalaya: Man and Nature; in which articles of social workers, academics and other knowledgeable persons on various socio-economic, technological and other problems of the Himalayan region and its people are published and debated.
Holding regional and national seminars and conferences to provide a forum for discussing problems facing the Himalayan people with particular reference to the scourge of deforestation and protection of the eco-system of the Himalaya.
Besides coordinating the activities of state and central agencies, the Sangh actively associated itself with the World Forestry Day, World Environment Day and similar other programmes of national and international character.
The preservation of forests is essential for the very survival of man. The exploitation and management of forests, therefore, must be related to the needs of the people in such a manner that a balance is struck between the requirements of economic infrastructure and the needs of those people who have been depending on the forests for ages past.
Conservation of forests and afforestation should be given top priority in any programme of regional development in the Himalaya. Social forestry is an essential ingredient of forest development and management, especially in the Himalayan region.
A separate cell on the Himalaya be created in the planning Commission in order to develop an integrated approach to the problem of forests in the region and its bearing on different aspects of the lives of the people.
Efforts should be made to evolve a forest policy, which would be flexible enough to allow local variations in accordance with cultural traditions of the people. In brief, it should promote unity in diversity and pay special attention to the weakest sections of the population on the ideal of "Antyodaya to Sarvodaya".
Quarring, mining and allied activities should be regulated suitably to ensure that they cause minimum soil, erosion and the areas subjected to such operations are rehabilitated effectively and expeditiously.
Activating the various committees like education, health, Water and Forest.
Developing community enterprise and generate employment at the Village level.
Ensuring that True Education reaches to all section of society in a village liberating the communities from the clutches of caste and class discrepancies.
Working for the emancipation and empowerment of women and the downtrodden.
Initiating land reforms with the active participation of the entire village community so that there is no landless or bonded labour in the Himalayan communities.
Strengthening Farming, Horticulture and Animal Husbandry with necessary modern technological inputs and community participation.
Developing a strong co-operative movement of village Panchayats.
- Research and Documentation of different systems of Water Harvesting and Management in the Mountain systems.
- Construction of Chaals (Small ponds) for an effective recharge zone management.
- Roof Water Harvesting
- Construction of Water Canals
- Water quality testing and treatment
- Construction of slow sand filters
- Organizing Water Forums “Pani Panchayat”.
- Organizing Work camps and Mobile workshops
- Activities initiated to achieve the above objectives:
HSS appeals to all concerned for solidarity and support to strengthen this movement.
For more details contact :Manoj Pande
Secretary Himalaya Seva Sangh (HSS)
15, Rajghat Colony, Gandhi Smarak Nidhi Complex, New Delhi – 110002
Ph: 011 – 23319685