New Delhi: Sikkim government has given a fresh lease of life to dying mountain springs and lakes for ensuring water security in the Himalayan region.
In the last five years, a total of 400 hectares of land has been covered under spring shed development programme with a total investment of Rs 2.5 crore resulting in an annual ground water recharge of 900 million litres.
This has led to a revival of 50 springs and 40 lakes in 20 drought-prone Gram Panchayats in the northeastern state.
About 65,000 (80%) of the rural households of Sikkim are mainly dependent on springs for drinking water and irrigation needs throughout the year, which is only source of water to meet their domestic and irrigation needs.
Based on the experiences of this initiative to revive Sikkim springs, the Planning Commission has recommended the inclusion of spring-shed development in the new expanded list of permissible works under MGNREGA which has paved the way for starting revival of springs all across the country under this national flagship programme, an official statement said.
The state government launched this scientific pilot initiative namely spring-shed development (Dhara Vikas) in the year 2008 in active collaboration with WWF-India, People`s Science Institute, Dehradun, ACWADAM, Pune and others in the highest and the steepest landscape in the country, by using rainwater harvesting, geo-hydrology and GIS techniques.
Principles of geohydrology, watershed and GIS were integrated to conceptualise this new initiative which was launched through Rural Management and Development Department to revive, restore and rehabilitate dying 50 Himalayan water springs and four lakes mainly in drought-prone areas in view of increasing threat from environmental changes resulting from changes in climate, land use and demography.
These Himalayan springs in the state were drying and turning seasonal due to population increase, erratic rainfall and developmental activities which reduced the "sponge action" of the land and consequently created a hydrological imbalance.
Teams from WWF Nepal, Bhutan Government, Arunachal Pradesh Government and others have visited Sikkim on exposure tours to learn more about the spring revival initiative and implement similar programs in their respective states.
This initiative has helped in impacting national policy and the sharing of the learning’s has benefited other mountain regions as well.