118 years of trust
Chandigarh, Thursday, October 15, 1998
Watershed development in Shiwaliks
by S. S. Grewal
WATER is one of the most essential but scarce natural resource in the terrestrial ecosystems of the world. By and large, the availability of water per human head is fast diminishing both in Indian and African continents, which incidentally are the homes of the largest number of poors of the world.

Watershed development in Shiwaliks

by S. S. Grewal

WATER is one of the most essential but scarce natural resource in the terrestrial ecosystems of the world. By and large, the availability of water per human head is fast diminishing both in Indian and African continents, which incidentally are the homes of the largest number of poors of the world. Efficient management of canal and tubewell water in plains and rainwater in hills and foothills is crucial for increasing the output of the production systems. The management of rain water for increasing productivity is the primary objective of watershed development programmes, which incidentally are receiving very high priority in our national plans. In the Union Budget for 1998-99, the financial allocation for watershed management has been increased by 32 per cent and all the implementing agencies spread over number of ministries are proposed to be put under one umbrella.

The 8-million hectare foot-hill ecosystem of north India called Shiwaliks is now considered as one of the eight most degraded ecosystems of the country where land, water, vegetation and animal resources have been locked in a complex and vicious cycle of degradation with downward spiral. This region receives high priority for watershed development programmes because both the topography and geo-hydrological conditions prohibit canal and tubewell irrigation. The production systems mainly depends upon rainwater which is seldom normal in the monsoonic type of climate and is concentrated in three monsoon months. Most of the population depends on the stream flows, springs, wells and limited tap water made available by Government efforts. The indigenous system of collecting rainwater in village ponds is also getting obsolete.

When the natural resources deplete and degrade, the supplies of fuel, fodder and water also diminish. Womenfolk are most affected because the responsibility of arranging these supplies mainly lies with them as most male members migrate to plains in search of employment. In many localities, usable water is available only in wells located along streams and gullies. Women spend nearly half of their life in trekking the path between wells and their hamlets. The distance may vary from one to three kilometres. One can imagine the drudgery involved in walking on steep narrow footpaths with a headload of pitchers. Young girls usually drop out from schools to help their mothers.

If you go to any remote Shiwalik village and ask "What is your main problem?" The spontaneous reply would be "Please help us by arranging/augmenting water supplies. Water is the most limiting factor in our development." Unfortunately, the farmers of the foot-hill ecosystems could not derive much benefit from green and white revolutions which mainly travelled to irrigated plains and not rainfed foothills. Most big river valley projects also delivered the benefits in irrigated commands but people living in hilly catchments remained high and dry.

Sukhomajri Model

Watershed Development Project at Sukhomajri was the first successful example in this region which demonstrated the possibilities of harvesting rain water from small hilly forest watersheds by constructing earthen dams and using the stored water through a gravity system to meet varied needs of the community in nearby command areas. The availability of this water transformed the rural economy from doom to boom and also tied up the economic interest of the people with the protection of forest in the catchment areas (Social fencing). The stored water produced precious green forage like barseem which when stalfed to buffalo produced milk and milk generated daily cash flow. The model was replicated at several locations in Haryana, Punjab and Himachal Pradesh.

It was a location specific model which could be adopted if those suitable conditions were present. In the foothill ecosystems, soil, site, slope conditions are highly variable which obviously implies that a basket of options for water resource development should be available from which one could use any as per the suitability of conditions. This brings us from Sukhomajri to Makowal in Hoshiarpur which successfully demonstrated an equally strong option to expand watershed development in Shiwaliks.Top

Makowal Model

An innovative Divisional Soil Conservation Officer (DSCO) of Hoshiarpur was instrumental in improvising a very cheap and effective technique of harnessing water from torrents having base/perennial flow. There is no need of constructing earthen dam. There is also no risk of siltation. Water could flow with gravity round the year.

Under a drought relief scheme, this officer and Mr Kuldip Singh, Sarpanch of village Makowal (18 km N.E. of Dasuya in Hoshiarpur District) prepared a pilot project in 1986 by optimising the use of technical knowledge and local experience. Makowal village is situated on the side of a typical torrent called ‘Jamun Wala Choe’ at the foot of a hilly forest watershed (Map). The farm lands are located just below the village. This ‘Choe’ has perennial flow which persist after the rains but gradually decreases to almost negligible surface flow by the end of March. There was no source of drinking water in the village. Their forefathers had dug three wells near the bank of the Choe about 2 km upstream of village at a location where even in summer there used to be water in the wells. Women of the village used to bring drinking water from those wells by traversing a distance of 2 km several times a day. A small village pond used to get dried up in the very beginning of summer. Entire livestock was dependent on water available near these wells.

After a detailed topographic survey, it was found that the level of water in the wells during summer months was about three metres above the maximum level of the village pond which implied that if connected, water can flow with gravity from the wells into the village pond. Considering this feasibility, a rectangular inlet water tank of brick masonary of size 1.5 metre wide, 4 metres long and 2 metres deep was constructed above the well on one safe side of the torrent. Water from the active ‘Choe’ bed was diverted to the inlet through an open channel. Inlet tank was divided into two parts by a low height partition wall such that any sediment coming with water is arrested in the first half and clear water overflow to the second part of the tank. After putting a stand pipe by the lower side of the inlet tank, an underground RCC pipeline of 15 cm dia was laid connecting stand pipe to three wells and then on to the village pond first along the side of the Choe and then taking a turn near the village (map). The village pond was deepened, widened and renovated. From the underground pipeline one connection was given to a 1.0 metre wide, 6 metres long and 0.60 metre deep manger which is used to provide drinking water to the livestock. Another connection was given to an over-head tank fitted with taps for using water for drinking, bathing and washing. The entire over-flow, both of manger and overhead tank then entered the village pond. At the other end of the village pond, an outlet was provided to take surplus water to farm lands for irrigation again through underground RCC pipeline. The entire catchment area of Choe was treated with soil conservation measures.

The main advantage of Makowal system are:

Water flows round the year from the torrent bed to the village pond with gravity and no energy costs are involved.

Water is available close to the village for drinking, bathing, washing and livestock. The drudgery of women is greatly reduced.

Water in the pond remains available round the year which is a boon particularly for buffaloes which suffer from heat stress in summer and yield less milk.

Fish is raised in the pond because of regular water supply.

A sizeable area is irrigated where crop yields have almost doubled.

Money charged from farmers as water rent for irrigation goes to a common fund and used for maintenance of the system.

Several improvements in Makowal model have since been made to make it suitable for variable conditions of water availability in the perennial torrents. The system has been replicated by the Soil Conservation Department of the State. In the World Bank funded Integrated Watershed Development Project operating in 17 watersheds of Kandi area of Punjab, 35 such Makowal type water harvesting systems have been made. It has not only improved the credibility of the project but also increased the chances of cost sharing by the people in the form of labour. By so doing the chances of sustainability of the system has brightened because by human instinct we tend to protect and preserve something on which we have invested. The water users are organised as a local cooperative to manage the system. The maintenance costs are paid from the water rent and hence the systems become sustainable without much external support. On the strength of its merits, Makowal model like Sukhomajri has travelled to a large number of locations in the entire Shiwaliks.

The Author is Associate Director at PAU Regional Research Station, Ballowal (Nawanshahr).




Using alumni databases

by Amar Chandel

THOSE who are in schools and colleges do not fully appreciate that they are going through perhaps the finest period of their life. These are the formative years they are going to remember fondly. Most of the middle-aged persons that one comes across can be seen looking for college chums. It used to be quite a difficult task earlier. The Internet has made it a game. All that one has to do is to go through alumni databases. Two of the most popular ones are www.alumni. net and www. batchmates. com. If your institution is available, you can register yourself for free. And if it is not, you can register it for free at the second address (www. batchmates. com). Do this labour of love and see how easily you manage to get in touch with your friends. The best part is that this is a community service from India and quite a few Indian institutions are featured here, including some 70 from Punjab and Chandigarh. There are already 81,150 registrants.

The other option is to look for friends and relatives by searching for their e-mail addresses. Yahoo provides a comprehensive service. So does www. four 11. com. You just have to type in the name and (if available) the country and the addresses are with you in a matter of seconds.

And once you have located them, the next logical step is to send them letters. This is the festive season and a good way to break the ice is to send greeting cards. An interesting development is that a large number of sites like www. shubhkamna. com have started stocking India-specific cards. There are also Shockwave Flash Cards for the festivals of the month. Audio cards which play the background music of your choice are ideal for the coming Divali.

Here is hoping that the friendships that you thus revive or start afresh will come in handy for arranging a meeting with these friends. If you know all about how to undertake the journey, it is ideal. But if you need help, tap the Net once again. The service provided by Yahoo is trustworthy and invaluable at times. The one particularly useful is the tips for the budget travellers and the do’s and don’ts for various countries. The lowest fares from one destination to another can be utilised to pick up tickets at a bargain. It is another matter that Indian destinations are hardly available.

Similar notes can be had at www. travelnotes. org. The UK-based travel guide covers almost all big cities of the world, although the main focus is on places in Europe and the USA. The website contains a lot of practical information.


When alarming reports started appearing in the Press that anti-India forces were using the Internet to launch false propaganda about alleged atrocities by the Indian government, particularly the Army, in Kashmir, my fear was that this might be used as an excuse by hidebound bureaucrats to put speed-breakers or even road blocks on the information superhighway. Fortunately, that has not happened and the Army has decided to launch an offensive through the very medium which the ultras were using. Its 10-kilobyte website, www. armyinkashmir. com is a welcome attempt to set the record straight. It gives authentic statistics and cogent political arguments to counter the propa-ganda. Through the guest book, the visitors are able to give their reaction. Articles like "Army hot on the heels of murderers" and "Narco-terrorism in J and K and Pakistan’s role" should expose Paksitan before the world. Since August 20, the site has had as many as 15,000 hits.


Let us end this piece on a cheerful note. If you love to have the prescribed medicine of humour, try out sites like www. jokeaday. com. Register with it like 20,000 others and you will receive a joke free everyday by e-mail. If you want a bigger collection, you have to pay for it. You can also gift a subscription to a friend by putting him or her on the mailing list for free. Similar sites worth exploring are www. amused. com, www. aprilfools. com and www. comedyzine. com.

One would have thought that the Clinton jokes will go out of circulation soon enough but they seem to be thriving like nobody’s business. The number of such sites is virtually countless. While many of the previous jokes were rather tasteless, those posted after the testimony was televised are indeed brilliant. Among the biggest supermarts are www. erols. com and www. joke-post. com.



1. The first cord blood transplant in India was successfully conducted recently on a four-year-old boy terminally suffering from Leukaemia. In which hospital was it conducted and who headed the team of doctors?

2. ISDN is a new system in telecommunication technology by which two independent calls can be simultaneously made on the same telephone line. What does ISDN stand for?

3. The first Japanese interplanetary spacecraft is on its way to Mars to search for signs of water and to find clues as to whether life once existed on the Red planet. Name this spacecraft.

4. How many muscles are there in human body? How much percentage of weight is approximately contributed by the muscles to the total body weight?

5. Locally known as "tiloor" and even though protected under the Indian Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, this long-legged bird is hunted and killed for its meat. Name this endangered species found mostly in the deserts of Rajasthan.

6. What is the science of measuring high temperatures called?

7. Which chemical salts usually cause temporary hardness of water?

8. An Indian firm has recently developed a genetically engineered yeast-based vaccine that prevents the deadly disease hepatitis - B. Name this vaccine which has been approved to be of international quality?

9. Name the microscope in which, instead of light rays, a beam of tiny charged particulars is used for magnification and a much higher magnification is obtained than that produced by an optical microscope. Who discovered this microscope?

10. Name the Indian mathematician who became world famous for his complicated mathematical theories but died young in 1920.


1. Apollo Cancer Hospital, Chennai; Dr Ramesh Nimmaggada.

2. Integrated Services Digital Network

3. Nozomi (meaning hope)

4. 639; 40 per cent

5. Houbara bustard

6. Pyrometry

7. Calcium and magnesium bicarbonates

8. Revac-B

9. Electron microscope; German physicist Ernst Ruska

10. Ramanujan Srinivasa Ayengar.


Nutritious new potato

GENETIC engineers at the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi have turned the starchy potato into a wholesome nutritive food in what they believe to be a step toward eradicating protein malnutrition in developing countries, where potato is a staple diet.

Transgenic potatoes grown at JNU’s Centre for Plant Molecular Biology (CPMB) have a much higher amino acid content than ordinary potatoes. "They contain all the essential amino acids the body needs, including some that ordinary potatoes do not have," says Subhra Chakraborty who, with her husband Niranjan and CPMB director Asis Datta. produced the transgenic fuber.

What made the nutritious potato possible was a unique gene isolated by Datta and his team from grain Amaranthus. This gene, which has been patented in the United States, codes for seed storage protein named AMA-1, which is rich in all essential amino acids. Datta and his colleagues transferred this gene into ordinary potato to make it nutritious.

Simple way to recover oil spills

Chemically-treated sawdust and some microorganism can efficiently clear oil spills and treat petroleum refinery effluents, say Nagpur-based scientists who are ready to transfer the technology to industry.

Researchers at the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) have developed a two-step process that can recover about 90 to 95 per cent of spilled oil, says a report.

In the first step, sawdust is treated with alkali under high pressure and temperature. This gives very small pore sizes ranging between 10 and 20 micrometres (micrometre is one-thousandth of a millimetre), which doubles the surface area of sawdust from 42 square metres per gram to 96 square metres per gram, enhancing adsorption of oil.

In the next step, a group of microorganisms selectively degrades oil or petroleum refinery effluents.

Laboratory tests carried out at the institute have shown that the bacterial combination can degrade 70 per cent of Bombay high crude oil in 72 hours, it says.

Kit to identify snake bites

Management of snakebite victims may become easier with a new venom detection test kit developed by scientists in Bangalore, which helps identify the snake species and decide on the exact antidote to be given.

The kit performs the enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) test in less than, 30 minutes to tell whether a person has been bitten by a poisonous snake, and if so, the species.

It will be of use to primary health care centres in rural areas, according to PV Subba Rao, scientific director of Vittal Mallya Scientific Research Foundation (VMSRF), a non-profit research organisation that developed the kit.

VMSRF is also developing a new generation of antidotes specific for each of the four poisonous snakes found in India — the cobra, common Indian krait, saw-scaled viper and Russells viper.

Russians develop ABM system

Russia recently unveiled a new anti-ballistic missile (ABM) system that can knock down aircraft and ballistic missiles launched from a range of up to 2500 kilometres (km).

The mobile and versatile weapons system called Antaeus-2500 can simultaneously fire at 24 aerodynamic targets or 16 ballistic missiles flying at up to 4,500 metres per second, reports RIA Novosti.

Resembling a high-tech robot, the automated system, developed by researchers at the industrial company Anataeus Concern, can effectively destroy small sized, high-speed ballistic targets which are extremely manoeuvrable and relatively invulnerable.

Assisted by sectoral radars, a multi-channel missile-homing station and an optimal radar-signal processing mode, the system can simultaneously track up to 200 targets at a range of 300 km. pinpointing 70 most dangerous objects.

One Antaeous battery can reliably shield a 1000-2,500 sq. km area from all incoming enemy ballistic missiles. Besides, it can protect 125,000 sq. km of territory against enemy air strikes.

New herbal contraceptive

Defence scientists in Delhi have entered into an agreement with a Bangalore-based company for commercial production of a neem-based contraceptive.

The herbal contraceptive, developed by scientists at the Defence Institute of Physiology and Allied Sciences (DIPAS) in collaboration with the Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI), can kill sperms without affecting the normal cells.

"Concept" is now going through the last phase of animal toxicity tests at the Rallies India Research laboratory in Bangalore, DIPAS scientist G Ilavazhagan told PTI.

The key ingredient of this indigenous contraceptive is an ingredient called ‘NIM-76’ found in neem oil. The compound can kill sperms within minutes and has no side effects, he said.

DIPAS had five Indian patents on the contraceptive and has recently applied for two more patents in USA and UK.

Spray to control mites

Scientists in Bangalore claim to have developed an effective aerosol spray for the control of house mites, the major cause of dust allergy, asthma and rhinitis.

The formulation contains three active ingredients — one derived from a purified fraction of neem (Azadirachta indica), a disinfectant from another plant and a fungicide. It has been developed at the Vittal Mallya Scientific Research Foundation (VMSRF), a non-profit research institute.

Scientific director of the VMSRF PV Subba Rao said the new product was eco-friendly and biodegradable, unlike sprays containing synthetic formulations which were available in the market. The safety and effectiveness of the latter were questionable, according to Rao.

A patent for the product has been approved in India and the VMSRF is taking steps to get patents in the United States and other countries.


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