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Case Study
Watershed development in India

Watershed development in India

Developing long and short term watershed strategies that lead to rejuvenating ecosystems in India.
Good Practice
  • Sustainable land management
  • Rejuvenating ecosystems
  • Primary active restoration
  • Watershed development
  • Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use
  • Forestry and REDD+
  • Land use management

India, Asia

Year Published


Case Summary

According to the Government of India, by 2011, an estimated 35 million hectares of forestland has degraded due to deforestation and unsustainable agriculture/live stock and forestry practices. A majority of the degraded areas are rain-fed areas, which are affected by erratic and/or insufficient rainfall. Rural populations of India that live these regions are some of the poorest in the nation, and their livelihood depends on these natural resources. The government of India initiated restoration methods in the 1970’s and watershed development has been a national strategy for planning, developing and managing these rain-fed areas with the primary goals being food security and poverty reduction. The watershed development strategies have evolved over time, leading up to the strategy of rejuvenating ecosystems.

Actions profiled

Rejuvenating ecosystems consists of a combination of technical, landscape and social interventions to manage rainfall usage, soil erosion and groundwater levels. The approach was divided up based on the geography; (i) upper reached of the hillsides; (ii) intermediate areas and slopes and (iii) plains and flat lands. In the upper hillsides, reforestation was based on grazing bans that would prevent erosion. In the intermediate slope, agroforestry and horticulture was promoted, while in the flat lands, the focus was on sustainable agriculture. This case study describes actions taken from the 1970’s to present. A key barrier was identified over this course of time. One of the most challenging issues that needs to be addressed in India, when implementing a national strategy as discussed in this case study is – institutional coordination, and the understanding of the design rules (or working rules) within institutions – e.g. decentralization of institutes needs to be handled with care such that local social and political contexts are taken in to strong considerations.


In 2009, it was estimated that about 45 million hectares of degraded lands have received restoration interventions. As a result multiple benefits have emerged; e.g. increased food security, increased household income diversity, increased land value, reduced conflict and benefits for women empowerment.
  • Government of India
  • Non-governmental organizations
  • Village community groups
  • Female self-help groups
  • User groups
  • Watershed communities
  • Swiss Agency for Development and Corporation

Results supported byUNDPWorld Resources InstituteTransparency partnership