Water Security through community led initiative
A two-day community-led initiative was successfully carried out in the Kolbong Khasmahal located in the Rangli Rangliot CD Block, Darjeeling district. The event took place on the 15th and 16th of July 2023 and was led by Gyamit Lepcha and Youraj Khati, both members of the community.
The main activities of the event included plantation drive and de-siltation of the contour trenches. The local community members of the village along with newly elected panchayat member, Shri Dipendra Khati, actively participated in the initiative. Over 200 contour trenches were desilted and 300 water-retaining saplings were planted in and around the village.
The saplings were generously supplied by the Forest Office, Teesta Forest Valley Range, Govt of West Bengal. It is worth noting that, in the past two years, more than 600 saplings have been planted, with the central objective of restoring and conserving water resources in the area. The initiative has gained widespread support due to the gradual and steady increase in the otherwise decreasing spring discharge at the project site in the past two years.
The event was part of the national research project entitled ‘Spring Rejuvenation for Water Security in Himalaya’ funded under National Mission on Himalayan Studies (NMHS), Government of India being implemented across selected aspirational districts of Himalayan states in the country. The project aims to develop a model ‘water sanctuary’ around a selected spring and undertakes many activities focussing on the rejuvenation of depleting water resource and its optimum management. The project works towards revitalization of drying springs as a pilot project in 12 aspirational districts in the Indian Himalayan Region.
The Darjeeling chapter of the project was led by Dr Vimal Khawas, currently Professor in the Special Centre for the Study of North East India, Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU), New Delhi till June 30, 2023. It is now headed by Dr Santosh Kumar Rai, Assistant Professor, Dept of Botany, Sikkim University while Prof Khawas mentors the project team. The field activities of the project are monitored by Kabindra Sharma, Project Fellow and Research Scholar, Department of Peace and Conflict Studies and Management, Sikkim University under the supervision of project head. Er Vaibhav Gosavi, scientist, G. B. Pant National Institute of Himalayan Environment, Almora, coordinates the project at the national level.
Various activities are being undertaken to rejuvenate depleting water resources and optimize their management. As the project is time-bound and serves as a pilot, it requires active community participation and support to continue the model once the project term ends. The recent two-day intervention in Kolbong Khasmahal was unique as it was completely a community driven collective initiative and did not rely on direct support of the project team, thus making it a first of its kind among all the 12 project sites in India. This achievement highlights strong community engagement and dedication of the people in the hills towards conservation of natural resources and sustainable development of their region, if there is a provision for their participation in the planning and decision making processes.
De-siltation of Contour Trenches by the Communities