Peoples Science Institute
  PSI Home PageAbout PSIActivitiesPSI ResearchResource  
Contact PSI

Research at PSI is undertaken to improve the implementation of field projects, identify new areas of work and to innovate new technologies and social processes. It spans a variety of subjects from studies on traditions of water management, food security, work patterns of women in the central-western Himalayas, environmental quality and urbanization in mountain regions to action research on integrated water and forest management by mountain communities, enhancing productivity of paddy cultivation, development of GIS software, and the design of earthquake-safe rural houses and intermediate-sized hydrams.

This section contains significant research reports prepared by PSI.

About 62 million people in India suffer from dental, skeletal  or non-skeletal fluorosis. Most research on this subject is confined to monitoring fluoride levels in water rather than on mitigation of the disease. PSI presents the findings of water quality tests and health surveys in Sonebhadra district and describes an approach to community-based fluorosis mitigation planning.
An epidemiological study of the impact of air pollution on human health was conducted in Dehra Doon city in 2003. The results show that acute respiratory illnesses and eye diseases correlate strongly with air pollution caused by motor vehicular traffic. Chronic diseases have a lower correlation than acute illnesses.
A preliminary study to determine the impact of human activities in the protected Pench Tiger Reserve (PTR)  shows that the forests in the PTR have a threshold level of tolerance for human intervention. Upto this level forests can not only tolerate human interaction but also prosper. Beyond it there is a rapid decline in the forest quality.  Hence it is necessary to evolve an area specific knowledge-based approach that establishes the usufruct rights of the forest communities rather than follow an exclusionist approach to forest management.
Between September 2001 and April 2002 PSI monitored the leaching of mercury lying exposed and untended inside the abandoned Union Carbide factory in Bhopal, the scene of the greatest industrial disaster of the last century. PSI's results showed that mercury was not only leaching into the groundwater but was also diffusing through it.
Bioassays are relatively simple methods of assessing the toxicity and impact of industrial effluents on streams. PSI's analysis of the effluents from the Star Paper Mill in Saharanpur showed that they cause 50 to 85 per cent mortality in the fish species (sp. Barilius Bendelisis) tested. Water from the Hindon river, downstream of the SPM effluent channel, used for irrigating paddy nurseries causes a 50 per cent reduction in seed germination. The BOD, COD, TSS and mercury concentrations in the effluents exceeded the maximum permissible limits.
Local farmers in Meerut district -- in the heart of India's green revolution belt -- routinely use several banned and restricted pesticides. Fifty samples of soil, groundwater and vegetables were collected from various locations and analyzed for pesticides contamination.  The results show that the pesticides tend to persist in the soil and surface water bodies.

The most striking feature of the livelihoods assessment study is that only 15 per cent of the sampled households are primarily dependent on land, i.e., agriculture and livestock rearing, for their livelihoods and the rest depend on non-farm income sources. Service or pension is the primary income source for nearly half the households (45%). The second largest occupational group is of daily labourers (26%). Business and trade is the major income source for rest 14 per cent of the households. About 44 per cent of the sampled households live below the locally perceived poverty line of Rs. 634.25/p/m. The poor are mainly daily labourers or agriculturists by occupation and Scheduled Caste or Rajputs by caste. The poor, SCs and female-headed households are marginalized in terms of their incomes, assets and resources consumed. The difference in incomes between the agricultural households and those in services or business helps explain the massive shift from farm to non-farm occupations. This has serious negative implications for integrated resource management. The key to a positive turnaround lies in enhancing the local livelihoods potential through improved productivities of agricultural, forest and common lands. Other livelihood opportunities based on niche products and services, e.g., village tourism also need to be promoted. A critical constraint is the flagging community spirit, dysfunctional village level institutions and inadequate knowledge and management capabilities. The involvement of dedicated, competent and honest voluntary organizations can help overcome these handicaps and strengthen local institutions.

The study provides insights into the constraining factors in the operation of the institutions and makes recommendations for changes in the institutional framework and policies for integrated community management of natural resources. Most of the institutions are dysfunctional since many of these have been formed as a result of government orders. Due to lack of direction and cooperation from the government machinery, the Mahila Mangal Dals as well as Yuvak Magal Dals are also in a defunct state. Keeping in the spirit of the Panchayat Raj Act of 1992 fund, function, functionaries need to be devolved on PRIs. So far the transfer of funds and functionaries to the PRI has been resisted by the state administrators, elected MLAs and functionaries who see diminishing of their power as a consequence. Without the transfer of funds and functionaries, the transfer of functions is a mockery. Such transfer along with activation of the sectoral Gram Panchayat sub-committees can lead to an improvement of the services provided to the local communities. 

Significant resource gaps exist in the mountain villages, in terms of water, fuelwood, fodder, foodgrain and livelihoods. Farm production provides well below 50 per cent of the annual requirement of the cereals, vegetables and oil. About 45 per cent of the households are unable to meet the basic living expenses identified by the local communities. Large potential exists for increasing water, land and forests productivity in the mountain areas. Given the good human assets, adequate precipitation, streams and springs and good infrastructural resources, there is favourable scope for creating desirable local livelihood opportunities. Alienation of the local communities is a major constraint and there is an urgent need to create a sense of ownership or community control over critical natural resources like forests and water. Engagement of community in planning and implementing its own development is necessary. Mobilization of the communities and changes in the policy, legal and institutional frameworks is critically essential.

Participatory hydrological studies were conducted with the local communities in two micro-catchments of Kangra district of Himachal Pradesh to promote incentive-based mechanisms (IBM) for watershed protection services and improved livelihoods. The suspended sediment yield for the Bhodi-Suan and Kuhan catchments is 6.5 tons/ha/yr and 11.9 tons/ha/yr respectively, below the national average of 16.4 t/ha/yr. The estimated silt yields from both the catchments, however, exceed the tolerable soil erosion level according to the local soil depth. The local communities have used the data to plan catchment area treatment measures for watershed protection and improved livelihoods.
The legal, policy and institutional provisions for the management of water and forest resources in the Himalayan state of Uttarakhand are reviewed in a historical context and with a focus on how the laws actually operate on the ground. It highlights the constraining and facilitating factors on integrated water and forest management in the state, before making  recommendations for changes in the existing policy, legal and institutional frameworks.
This paper maps food insecurity at the district level in the state of Uttarakhand, using secondary data. Food insecurity is determined in terms of availability, access and absorption. The statistical analysis is supplemented with ground-truths from micro-studies.
This review paper describes a variety of water harvesting structures and management systems found in the Himalayan states of Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. It presents an insightful analysis to argue that sanskar (precepts and rites), sanskriti (culture and customary practices) and niti (state policy and administration) were the bases of the traditions and their longevity. It identifies the causes for the decline of these traditions and practical steps to build on the surviving traditions.
National water supply policies and programmes are reviewed along with the domestic water supply programmes in Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh. Official data are supplemented with observations and information from surveys and micro-studies. The paper analyses the data and makes recommendations for state policies and programmes.
This paper describes the various historical water conservation structures and water-mills in the Rispana valley near Rajpur. It details some of the more important structures and discusses the possibility of preserving the structures. The viability of this preservation can be increased by making the valley a tourist destination where visitors can walk along a circuit that takes in the more prominent structures. Some alternative circuits are also described
Go up

Developed by: People's Science Institute, Dehra Doon, Uttarakhand, India