Sunday, November 9, 2008

Climate change and Watershed program

Climate change and watershed program

It may be noted that the watershed programs are implemented in arid and semi-arid areas. The planning process in watershed program will be incomplete without taking into consideration the concerns related to climate change. In India a vast areas are under semi-arid conditions, which are prone to climate extremes and thereby a range of vulnerabilities for the following reasons:

The areas are characterized by relatively low annual rainfall of 25 to 60 centimeters. The annual precipitation is lower than potential evapotranspiration.
The people living in the semi-arid areas are particularly vulnerable to droughts, which trigger frequent subsistence crises --sharply increasing crop failures, dislocation, famine, poverty, increases stratification and the social inequities.
People, institutions and systems in these areas have ability to adjust to potential damage, to take advantage of opportunities, or to cope with the consequences.

Therefore, there is a need to apply people’s knowledge, technology and best practices for mitigation and adaptation to climate change. The interventions focused on climate change mitigation and adaptation should essentially give priority to water, agriculture, energy and ecology.

The innovations should be carried to find solutions to various problems. I have done experiments on with charcoal for reclaiming the degraded soils. The following case study from a remote village from Mahabubnagar will show how problem of overgrowth of Prosopis Juliflora (a problem) was used an opportunity to find solution for reclamation of alkaline soils.

Due to successive decrease in rainfall over a period of 50 years, the soils in a village have turned alkaline. This area was known traditionally for growing paddy extensively. Due to dwindling groundwater resources and decrease in rainfall about 30 % of the soils have turned alkaline. Therefore the farmers owning such lands have left them fallow, in which Prosopis Juliflora is growing extensively. Prosopis Juliflora has become an extensive weed in all the fallow lands. The local people are able to sell the wood or by making charcoal out of Prosopis are able to earn livelihood during off season. To improve the soil fertility of these alkaline soils an innovative practice has been designed by Dr. N. Sai Bhaskar Reddy GEO. In this practice by using charcoal along with the compost and other soil additives the fertility of the soil is improved and also farmers could get yield as compared to control soils. This innovative practice has led to reclamation of the alkaline soils were: (i) Reclaiming the alkaline soils; (ii) Increasing the soil microbes density; (iii) Increasing the soil moisture retention capacity ; (iv) Absorption / Adsorption of the micro-nutrients and slow release to the plants to prevent evaporation, volatilization and leaching; (v). Carbon sequestration through application to the soil; (vi) Solving a regional weed problem; (vii) By using the Charcoal produced locally for the benefit of the local community; (viii). Geo-ecology conservation by planting local species; and (ix) input cost reduction for the farmers and increase in income of the farmers.

The possible options that can be tried in watersheds in this context are as follows:

Identification of climate variability/change factors by analyzing agro-met data of the region for the last 30 to 50 years.
Identification of suitable draught resistant crops.
Soil testing and reclaiming degraded soils through application of silt, mulching, green manure, vermin-compost, Farm yard Manure, charcoal, Soil Microbes, etc.
Agro-meteorology station to be established; and water management practices such as water-crop budget, ground water studies, etc may be carried out.
Conservation of surface water through renovation of water bodies, construction of diversion drains, etc.
Introduction of water saving devices such as drip/sprinkler irrigation
Roof top rainwater harvesting structures constructed for mitigating impacts of fluorosis.
Development and promotion efficient Good Stoves in rural areas for conservation of bio-mass, saving time, health, etc.
Promotion of non-conventional and renewable energy technologies
Promotion of bio-diversity for meeting the needs of local communities, fauna and ecosystem.

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