Tuesday, April 11, 2000,
Chandigarh, India



Watershed projects’ objectives

THIS is with reference to the letter “HP’s watershed projects” (The Tribune, April 7). Many agencies, including the World Bank, the Central Government and NABARD, are funding watershed development projects in the states.

The basic objective of all these projects is to rehabilitate the degraded watersheds with people’s participation. During my last 25 years’ involvement in watershed development projects in the north-west Shivaliks, I have come in close contact with the village communities for whom these projects are meant. There is considerable change in the attitude of the people and they are now aware that these projects are for their benefit.

However, in all our meetings with the village communities, there is only one demand and that is water for their parched agricultural fields. The farmers are not much interested in other activities.

  If the watershed development programmes are to succeed, water resource development should get top priority. Instead of wasting money on 10 components, let it be spent on one component — water resource development — so as to mitigate the hardship of the people.

It is not advisable to go in for bigger dams like Chauhal/Dholbaha, as suggested by Mr Tara Chand. These are too expensive and time-consuming. What is needed is to emulate the examples of Sukhomajri, Bunga (in Haryana) and Nadha near Chandigarh (in Punjab). These are small earth-fill dam-height varying from 12-16 metres. These are less expensive, easy to execute, and can be completed in a short time. Besides, the benefits from these dams are mostly going to those people who have been depending heavily on the catchment areas. Their economic interests have been linked with the rehabilitation of denuded catchment areas.

Once the villagers have a productive resource (like harvested rainwater) in their area, they will indeed participate in other developmental activities envisaged as part of the projects.


Between East and West

Mozart continued to play in my ears as the plane crossed the thin barrier dividing the East from the West, becoming palpable on this very special evening! A fine line of light all along the horizon became fainter and fainter until enveloped by darkness as the East had arrived and all rules of the earth’s roundness and revolution had been proved true at 37000 feet from above Shiraz in Iran. The clocks and watches had to be reset, and four and a half hours were added.

On my flight towards the East, a rich feast of breathtaking snow mountains and flat surfaces were provided in plenty. A plane approached us from about 2000 feet below as I stood in the cockpit cherishing the fascinating experience of gliding over the rich white sheet of snow spread across miles of land beyond the Black Sea. People got up and took to this sudden upsurge of serotonin with coke and wine. The feelings were writ large on their faces and had to be seen to be believed.

As we flew over Karachi my mind oscillated between Switzerland and India with a nostalgic feeling! The visit to Switzerland was faster than the time taken to register and recognise such a vast change of living systems, culture, technology, language, climate and people. It almost seems like a dream — it indeed was a dreamland — bereft of all pollution, wicked minds, delays, population density, dirt and inconvenience of travelling!

The place was replete with countless number of transcendental retinal impressions. This began to romantically find an indelible impression in my mind. Sitting in the lap of Engelberg where angels are believed to tread, discussions of neurosciences, culture and philosophy took a new dimension in the heavenly environment provided by a completely different topography of snow-bound mountains. Fire-side talks, roundtable discussions and passionate speeches stimulated creativity. The more I tried to pinch myself to realise that I am really there, the more I was seized by the need for such realisation. It was only increasing. The food and the people were as different as the breath of air that I inhaled for full one week.

The bazaars were as beautiful and scented as the nature that sheltered them. People would say “sorry” before I had made a mistake in my social conduct, as civic in their intensity as lion is in the jungle.

However, this has had only a surprising effect on my willingness to come back with a sense of more urgency, perhaps the attraction wasn’t enough to overcome the desire to be back. I was enlightened, in the process, to a sense of belonging to India with increased vigour!


Chatti Singhpora killings

I read with interest “The killings of Chatti Singhpora” by Lt-Gen Harwant Singh. The suggestions given by the former General seem to be the best solution to the problem, and should be implemented both by the central and state governments in letter and in spirit.

New Delhi


Guess as to what some Pakistanis think about their country which was once referred to as the “buffer state” by the Americans.

Answer: “Duffer state”.



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