Mountain springshed development governance in South Asia: a comparative analysis of program effectiveness and equity in northeast versus northwest Himalayan Indian states

Authors: Rachel Lynn Murray*, University of Arizona - Arid Lands Resource Sciences
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, Political Geography, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: political ecology, water, governance, South Asia, mountains, irrigation, agriculture, rural
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Poydras, Sheraton, 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


The northern Indian Himalaya region is home to socio-hydrological systems particularly vulnerable to vagaries of climate change: increased rainfall intensity, reduction in winter rainfall, and changes in monsoon timing. Resultant cascading effects include decreased recharge and discharge rate of springs used for domestic and agricultural water; increased landslides and floods; and reduced surface water availability. The negative impacts are felt particularly acutely by women farmers, ethnic minorities and the landless poor. Recognizing the urgent need for water security, the State Government of Sikkim, India, implemented a springshed development initiative to revive the dying springs and interconnected lakes and streams. Governmental and non-governmental organizations and community groups coordinated recharge works to: reduce runoff and increase percolation, map and inventory springsheds, and train locals in hydrology. Initial successes led to coordinated springshed development projects in northwest Indian states but also highlighted gaps in the research requiring conversations with key stakeholders about their perceptions of fairness in governance and livelihood benefits or losses. First, measurements of success were based solely on discharge measurement, with no evaluation of equity and representation. Second, there are no comprehensive evaluations of subsequent initiatives in northwest regions with high levels of heterogeneity and diversity across populations. I apply methods such as key stakeholder interviews, focus groups, and government interviews. Initial findings point to indicators of weak governance, including: institutions benefitting large rather than marginal farms, and a limited number of individuals rather than the community as a whole; and lack of community participation, benefit sharing, and financial transparency.

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