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Jal Sanskriti (2000-2004)

Nature has endowed the central-western Himalayan region of Uttarakhand and Himachal Pradesh with abundant water resources. But people in this region face water-shortages. With financial support from The Ford Foundation, in January 2000 PSI began the Jal Sanskriti programme to study the root causes of these problems and to build a consensus among a variety of stakeholders -- from villagers to Panchayati Raj functionaries, VOs, government officials, political leaders and funding agencies -- on social processes, technologies and policies that could lead to sustainable, equitable and productive management of water resources in the region. The focus of the programme was on (i) research and documentation, (ii) consensus-building through workshops, publication of the ty laLd`fr newsletter, (iii) development and diffusion of appropriate technologies and (iv) exposure to good water management practices through study tours.   

The most significant achievement of the Jal Sanskriti programme was the creation of an awareness and appreciation of the region's rich heritage of water harvesting structures and systems and the role of sanskriti (culture) in ensuring sustainable management of these resources. It can be said that Jal Sanskriti is a conceptual brand created by PSI. This awareness has led to a renewed interest in the conservation of traditional water harvesting structures and their catchments. As the editor of a Hindi newspaper from Bageshwar district wrote, ‘We owe immense thanks to People’s Science Institute for educating us about the Jal Sanskriti of our region’.

Second, the Jal Sanskriti programme was able to promote an awareness of appropriate technologies among a large cross-section of people involved in water resources management. In addition to the revival of traditional water harvesting structures, installation of deep infiltration wells, development of water sanctuaries and the use of intermediate sized hydrams designed by PSI are beginning to spread in Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand as a result of its technology diffusion efforts. Now the challenge before PSI is to achieve a quantum jump in the scale of application of these technologies in a manner that also leads to greater equity in the society.

The third critical accomplishment of the Jal Sanskriti programme is the generation of a debate on the need to decentralize the ownership of water and other natural resources.  PSI has presented historical analyses to show that sustainable water resource management requires giving autonomy to local communities -- particularly in the rural areas -- over their natural resources. This enables them to manage forests and water in a holistic manner, which is essential for the sustenance of water sources in the mountain region. At the same time, greater importance must be given to technologies that lend themselves to decentralized implementation.

These concepts have received a very positive response from rural communities, especially the PRI representatives.  The broad support for PSI’s campaign to incorporate these ideals in the state water policy has forced the Uttarakhand government to review its own draft policy document. The struggle for community ownership of natural resources, however, promises to be a long and drawn out one.
The Jal Sanskriti (Hindi) newsletter produced by PSI became very popular as evident from the readers’ responses. This publication needs to be revived. It has served as an excellent medium for disseminating useful information.

An Independent Assessment

"First, the network of partners (at the Jal Sanskriti Workshop) assembled was broad, mutually supportive with little apparent friction or 'turf' issues, and critically, represented an impressive mix of civil society, highest level decision makers including the Uttaranchal Chief Minister and Chief Secretary, government officials, academicians, farmers, SHG members, etc. This mix of partners actually demonstrates significant potential to make important contributions to reorienting the development priorities of the region; at the same time, leads to a wide array of potentially conflicting, or at least diverging, interests. The implications of this will need to be fathomed by PSI.
"Second and this is a rare and valuable find, the content of the discussions ranged from cultural underpinnings and belief systems of water management right through to legalistic interpretations of land and water acts or technical specifications of hydrams, for example. In between these extremes, the presentations were populated with data….. that were used to draw lessons, generate conclusions or at least indicative directions for follow up action and research. … "
Arun Pandhi, Sr. Programme Officer, SRTT
Dr C.Scott, Director, IWMI, India Office

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