New Delhi: The Sikkim government has launched a massive initiative to revive and restore dying natural springs to address the water problem, especially in the rural areas. It has led to a 15 percent enhancement in spring discharges.
Through the initiative called Dhara Vikas, the government has sucessfully revived 50 springs and four lakes in 20 drought-prone Gram Panchayats, a senior Sikkim government official said.
This scientific pilot initiative was launched by the state government in 2008 in collaboration with WWF-India, People`s Science Institute, Dehradun, and Advanced Centre for Water Resources Development And Management (ACWADAM), Pune. It is funded under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA).
About 65,000 or 80 percent of the rural households of Sikkim are mainly dependent on springs for drinking water and irrigation needs throughout the year.
According to an independent study by Bangalore-based Indian Institute of Science, the Dhara Vikas programme has led to 15 percent enhancement in the spring discharges in the state.
"The full impact of artificial recharge will be visible in the next three years which will further improve the health, hygiene, sanitation and the livelihood options of the rural folks," the official, who did not wish to be named, said on a visit here.
The programme is based on the principles of of geohydrology, watershed and geographic information system (GIS).
The state government, in coordination with several non-profit organisations like WWF India, Peoples Science Institute and ACWADAM, has organised more than 20 capacity building programmes to provide specialised training and skills to the people in the field of rainwater harvesting, geohydrology, spring discharge measurement and use of the global positioning system (GPS).
The programme assumes significance as Himalayan springs in the state are drying and turning seasonal due to an increase in population, erratic rainfall and developmental activities that reduced the "sponge action" of land and consequently created a hydrological imbalance.
Based on the experience of this initiative, the Planning Commission has recommended the inclusion of spring-shed development in the new expanded list of permissible works under MGNREGA in 2012, which has paved the way for starting revival of springs all across the country under the national flagship programme.
Teams from WWF Nepal, and government officials from Bhutan and some Indian states like Arunachal Pradesh have visited Sikkim to learn more about the spring revival initiative and implement similar programmes in their respective states.
"This initiative has helped in impacting national policy and the sharing of the learnings has benefited other mountain regions as well," the official said.