Pilot projects for watershed management in Bokakhat and Dergaon of Golaghat district and Teok and Mariani in Jorhat district of Assam would be soon launched by Samaj Pragati Sahayog (SPS), an NGO working to evolving an alternative path of development in India based on the principles of people's empowerment, equity and sustainability.
The go-ahead was given by Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi when the activists of SPS met him here late evening.
Dr Mihir Shah, Member, Planning Commission and former SPS secretary, who was largely responsible for drafting the report of the Parthasarthi Committee that suggested path-breaking reforms in the watershed sector, said the organisation with its headquarters at Dewas district of Madhya Pradesh had made visits to several areas in Upper Assam to study the impact of water and livelihood.
Dr Shah apprised Mr Gogoi of SPS executing a large number of projects in the remote, tribal dry lands of India, focusing on the 90 village tribal enclave in the Dewas district of Madhya Pradesh.
Inspired by the life and works of Baba Amte, Dr Shah said the beneficiaries of the projects were people and organisations involved in watershed development programmes in their own area.
Activist P S Vijayshankar, a Member of the National Steering Committee of the Integrated Watershed Development Programme of the Government of India and a Member of the 12th Plan Working Group on Sustainable Groundwater Management, said Assam has abundance of surface and groundwater in the Brahmaputra-Barak Valley basin with a per capita availability of water being 14057 cubic metre, the highest in India.
" Only 1 per cent of the surface water has been utilised while 66 per cent is usable. As groundwater is concerned, only 3 per cent has been utilised while 35 per cent remains unutilised, " he said.
Vijayshankar suggested that more areas have to be brought under irrigation to raise productivity.
Vijayshankar said the best way the small and marginal farmers with very low land holding size can benefit is by bringing them into an association/unit.
Dr Shah said SPS encourages farmers to grow crops without any chemical pesticides, create an identity for their produce and link these small producers to markets.
Dr Debashis Banerji, a noted Indian scientist, currently engaged in bioinformatics research on improvements in genetic engineering technology to make it relevant for poor farmers, said the focused strategy of SPS on water and livelihood strategy is poverty alleviation.
Dr Shah said the water harvesting structures built by SPS had helped the farmers to tide over water crisis by promoting water-saving irrigation techniques.
The Chief Minister while thanking the organisation for evincing keen interest said it can upscale its activities by identifying some more intensive blocks in the entire State.
Mr Gogoi said the Government has given thrust on watershed management programmes by taking steps in right earnest as to how to make judicious use of precious water resources for the benefit of the people.
Dwelling at length on the problem of erosion, Mr Gogoi sought the expertise of SPS to tackle the problem.
Mr Gogoi also echoed the sentiments of SPS members that desiltation of the Brahmaputra river bed has to be carried out through dredging.
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