Acknowledging that groundwater development needs to be supported simultaneously by water conservation measures and that rapid expansion of groundwater would compromise resource sustainability, a unique project was formulated in the late 1970’s with the support from the Swiss Technical Cooperation, Embassy of Switzerland. Popularly known as the ‘Integrated Land and Water Use Project at Devpimpalgaon’, the initiation of the project is traced to the successful impact of a percolation tank constructed in Devpimpalgaon, a drought prone area in the Deccan Plateau (Maharashtra) and observed improvements in groundwater levels in wells located downstream. Subsequent additions to the project included regeneration of the environment through micro watershed management, soil and water conservation measures, water harvesting and afforestation. Implemented with the support of our partner, documented physical impacts include storages of 0.5 million cubic meters through water harvesting; 64 acres under irrigation; sprinkler irrigation in 32 acres; 8,00,000 tree under community forest on 200 acres; electrification with energization of 20 wells; multi purpose community center; dryland agriculture center established on 14 acres for demonstration of dry farming techniques, demonstration of improved varieties of cattle and small ruminants.
Our experience of working in Devpimpalgaon gradually evolved into what is now commonly known as watershed programmes. The project offered an integrated approach to the management of land and water resources with environmental, social and economic impacts. However, despite the adoption of this approach by over 500 villages, sharing of experiences amongst the government agencies and the non-government sector and it being one of the flagship activities of the partnership, sustenance of interventions and stiff external triggers continue to be challenges faced.