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Surendra Kumar Yadav, Researcher, CSRD/SSS/JNU, New Delhi


In the early 1980s, the people of Sukhomajri village in Shivalik range of the Himalaya in Haryana's Ambala
district earned nation-wide acclaim for the way in Which they had utilized their forests and water to their benefit. An estimated
5,000 khair trees had matured in the 400 hectare Sukhomajri forest. At an average price of Rs 1,000 per quintal of heartwood,
these trees could reap more than Rs 50 lakh in timber alone. One quintal of khair heartwood yields up to 6 kg of katha – an extract
used in medicine, pan and natural dyes - that sells at Rs 500 per kg, adding up to Rs 1 crore to the nation's kitty. About 5,000
trees would mature in the forest every year.
It was the result of a joint forest management programme introduced in 1976 that Sukhomajri prospered. For the
rest of the country, Sukhomajri became a model of community participatory management. The project began in the mid-1970s out
of concern for the silting-up Sukhna lake near Chandigarh, which had lost nearly 70 per cent of its water storage. P R Mishra chose
Sukhomajri, which is in the lake's catchment area, and constructed four check dams and planted trees.
Initially, Mishra's attempts at regenerating the local environment failed because the villagers had little regard for
Chandigarh's water concerns. A change in attitude occurred after 1977 when four tanks built successively created an increased
storage capacity and increased crop yield rates from 6.83 quintals per hectare in 1977 to 14.32 in 1986. "Water acted as the
catalyst in the transformation. In return for water, the villagers were ready to protect the watershed," (Mishra). The income that
began to come from cutting bhabbar grass and harvesting mungri or forage grass started to change the face of the village. Prosperity

became a by-word. The 80 households in the village replaced their thatch-and-mud dwellings with brick-and-cement houses and
about 40 of them owned television sets. With growing prosperity, Sukhomajri villagers were becoming increasingly conscious of
economic self-reliance in the creation of community assets. They stopped auctioning bhabbar grass, which their Hill Resource
Management Society (HRMS), set up in 1980, leased from the forest department, to contractors.

Just about five years after the setting up of the HRMS in 1980, the annual
Household income increased to Rs 3,000. Sukhomajri was one of the few villages to be taxed on income from natural regeneration.
A 1989 amendment in the Income Tax Act brought registered societies such as HRMS within its purview. HRMS was liable to pay
15 per cent income tax, but it took the initiative to have such societies exempted the same year. However, the society continued to
pay 10 per cent sales tax on bhabbar, which was imposed in 1993 with retrospective effect from 1991. They also had to pay a toll
on bhabbar taken to the paper mills in Himachal Pradesh at the rate of Rs 100 per carriage.
However, bhabbar turned out to be a point of conflict in later years. In 1995, the forest department
arbitrarily divided the 400 ha hill tract between Sukhomajri and Dhamala, a neigbouring village, disrupting a unique resource
management programme. Till the forest department intervened, the two villages used to share forest produce on the basis of social
fencing. They shared grazing rights in the same forest area. Thus, the two villages began to compete for fodder. The division of the
forest also threatened social co-existence. Dhamala village, consisiting of upper caste Jats, were given a portion more saturated
with bhabbar, the division placing them in a position to reap most of the bhabbar bonanza. Sukhomajri villagers,consisting of lower
caste Gujjars, were no longer allowed to collect fodder from the Dhamala section. This led to tensions and a worsening conflict.

· To examine the socio-economic benefits in water harvesting system in Sukhomajri village in
· To examine the water availability before and after induction of harvesting system in
Sukhomajri village in Haryana.
· To examine the agricultural development in water harvesting system.
· To analyse the impact of micro-watershade management in natural resource conservation.
· To analyse the role of Water Users Association in conservation and distribution of natural
resource management.


Sukhomajri village located near Chandigarh; hill resources

management society is a village level institution with one member per household to ensure collective responsibilities and rights in the
micro-watershed development and protection of the heavily degraded forest land that lies within the catchment of the minor
irrigation tank; the multiple benefits of this project include increased water harvesting,
ground water recharge, and reduced soil erosion leading to three times increase in crop production, increased grass/fodder
availability, increased milk production, increase in annual household incomes.

Problems of Sukhna Lake:

_ Massive soil erosion
_ Loss of the hill forests
_ Over grazing

Watershed development techniques adopted:

_ Building small earthen dams raised agricultural output
_ Dam tripled crop yields
_ Economic benefits of rehabilitating the hills
_ In Nada village, production of crops went up from a dismal 40 kilograms per hectare in
the 1970s to over 2,000 kilograms in 1986.

The Greening of Sukhomajri:

Sukhomajri, a village in the state of Haryana, is not unlike thousands of other
villages in India's hill areas that suffer ecologically under monsoon conditions. There is one difference: Sukhomajri is the site of an
innovative water management and soil conservation project. The village is located in the foothills of the Himalayas, where
overgrazing and deforestation have led to massive erosion during the monsoon season. Agriculture cannot be practiced productively
during the dry season because of a lack of water.
Water control and the erosion of land are major barriers in India's efforts to increase its agricultural productivity.
In recent years, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research has been aiding efforts to control erosion
through projects in which scientists collaborate with farmers to develop new practices. A key participant in this effort has been the
council's Central Soil and Water Conservation Research and Training Institute at Dehra Dun.

A few years ago institute scientists began testing new conservation and farming practices in the
village of Sukhomajri. The project has two aims: to increase the villagers' incomes and to protect the fragile watershed of the hills in
the region. Sukhomajri was selected because of its strategic location at the head of a watershed that drains into Lake Sukhna near
the model city of Chandigarh, the joint capital of Punjab and Haryana states. The lake had been rapidly silting up and seemed
destined to vanish in a few years. Sukhomajri has a population of forty families, who farm an area of some sixty acres. Many of
them have per capita incomes of $100 a year, well below the Indian poverty level. In working with the villagers, institute scientists
soon learned an important lesson. Conventional pleas not to cultivate unsuitable land or to control cattle grazing did not work.
Villagers were living too close to the
subsistence level to reduce their consumption of resources. But they did respond when a project was proposed that would promise
them an immediate benefit.
That project was the construction of a small dam that not only prevented soil erosion but also
provided water for household needs and irrigation. One result was the doubling of crop yields. In addition, the villagers began to
cooperate in watershed conservation efforts, understanding that the reservoir behind their dam would soon silt full if they did not.
Increased crop production has made more fodder available, thereby reducing the grazing pressure on the land. The farmers are
grading, leveling, and terracing their lands to prevent erosion, and more land is being planted in fruit trees and vegetables. Because
of the success of the Sukhomajri project the Indian government is mounting a much larger effort to develop similar irrigation and
conservation projects. Its initial efforts are being assisted by
Foundation grants to the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and the Bharatiya Agro-Industries Foundation. The ultimate aim is
to create hundreds—perhaps in time thousands—of "Sukhomajri model" projects throughout the Himalayan hill country. To
improve and manage degraded forests near their homes. This year the Foundation continued its support of such projects through a
grant of $197,500 to the Ranchi Consortium for Community Forestry.
In Indonesia the pressures of population and economic growth have led to expansion into areas
whose ecology is not well understood. Support went this year to a center on resources and the environment at Gadjah Mada
University that has begun using advanced scientific techniques such as photographic interpretation and satellite imagery. The center

provides training for professionals from governmental and private agencies in resource analysis and management. Additional
support also went to the University of the Philippines at Los Ba ños for its research and training in environmental and resource
management. Indonesia's Peasants' Socio-Economic Development Foundation, a developer of rural cooperatives, received a grant
of $300,000. This private organization has been enlisted by the government to train field workers and to develop income-generating
projects and credit assistance among poor rural women. Bogor Agricultural University also received a grant to increase the
capacity of its Center for Rural Sociological Studies for research on the needs of rural women. Supplementary funds went to the
Ministry of Agriculture in Bangladesh for its Women's Section, which was created in 1978 to analyze the effects of agricultural
policy and programs on rural women's employment and to suggest ways to improve their economic status.
In India the Foundation to Aid Industrial Recovery (FAIR), a voluntary agency, received $276,000 to
expand its management services to agencies working with the rural poor whose livelihoods depend on food processing, dairying,
cloth making, and other cottage industries. One group being helped is the Neglected and Forgotten Artists' Cooperative, a
community of desperately poor itinerant artists and craftsmen; FAIR is helping them to obtain social services and to market their
handicrafts and performing skills.

Project Experience:
During the 1970's and 1980's there are instances of communities protecting natural forests either on their own initiative or with the
encouragement of the officials of Forest Department. Two such projects, which emerged in the 1970s, were Arabari in West
Bengal and Sukhomajri in Haryana. The pioneers of these projects were foresters who firmly believed that forest could not be
protected from impoverished villagers, acutely dependent for their survival on unsustainable exploitation of forest resources through
policing methods. The projects highlighted the need to devise viable livelihood alternatives for the people so as to put an end to
unsustainable forest exploitation and to acquire a stake in forest protection.
Haryana initiative relates to'Social Fencing in Sukhomajri village during 1977-78'. The
continuing siltation of the Sukhna Lake (Chandigarh) and the failure of all vegetative and mechanical measures to arrest the same
compelled the official to find a solution in consultation with the local villagers of Sukhomajri. A small water -harvesting dam was
constructed for irrigating their fields. With the increase in agricultural production, villagers came forward to protect the dam
catchments from grazing so as to prevent siltation of their storage capacity. Earthen rainwater harvesting dams were built in
adjoining forests for providing irrigation to small land holdings. All the households in the locality were entitled to have an equal share
of water, irrespective of land ownership or size of land holding, in return for stopping grazing in the hills. The experience in
Sukhomajri is based on the following principles.

1) Improving livelihood security of all forest dependent villagers by facilitating a switch

over to a more sustainable, higher productivity, natural resource management system
including both forest and non-forest lands.

2) Assuring its institutional sustainability through transferring resource management

responsibilities to an autonomous community organization called Hill Resource

Management Society (HRMS) founded on principles of membership access to all
households and equitable sharing of the costs and benefits of protection among all

The principles of Sukhomajri were incorporated in Haryana Governments JFM policy (June 1990). There are more than 50 Hill
Resource Management Societies (HRMS) of villagers to protect approximately 15,000 ha. of forest land under JFM (as per 1996
estimates). Unlike the long gestation of benefit sharing from poles or timber in West Bengal, HRM became Forest Department's
effective partners in Forest Resource Management thereby getting priority access to annual fodder and bhabbar grass leaves at
non-market prices. Forest Department of Haryana have been working on evolving new strategies and procedural guidelines for the
systematic expansion of JFM since 1989, but it has not succeeded in providing viable alternatives to prevent unsustainable forest
use by the villagers. Although Haryana Forest Department has built a large number of water harvesting dams on the Sukhomajri
pattern, the majority of them are non functional either due to technical faults or are not completed. The inadequate water supply
compelled the economically dis-advantaged villagers to depend on forests for cattle grazing. Consequently Haryana's programme
continued to remain more or less static where as JFM in West Bengal has expanded and became popular. JFM framework of
West Bengal at present serves as a model for other States.

Water Shed Management Project : A Success Story of Participatory Approach

Sukhomajri, a small hamlet of about one hundred families with average land holding of 0.57 ha, is located in the foothills of Shivaliks
in Panchkula district of Haryana. It is at a distance of about thirty kilometers by road to the north-east of Chandigarh. A successful
experience of participatory natural resource management, which has been proved to be conducive for bringing about socio -
economic and cultural transformation of the village community, has been initiated by Central Soil & Water Conservation Research
and Training Institute, Chandigarh. Until 1975, Sukhomajra had no source of regular irrigation. The entire agricultural land (52
hectares) was under rain-fed single cropping. Small land holdings (less than one hectare per family) coupled with frequent crop
failures due to erratic distribution of rainfall, made agriculture least dependable as a means of adequate livelihood. Consequently,
the people of Sukhomajri were forced to keep a large number of sheep, goats and cows to eke out a living. But, once the domestic
animals, especially the goats and cows, were allowed to graze freely in the nearby hills, followed by indiscriminate felling of trees for
fuel and other domestic consumption, the hill slopes, once covered with lush green vegetation, soon became bare and not even a
blade of grass was to be seen.


In the year 1975, the continuing problem of silting of the prestigious man-made Sukhna Lake in Chandigarh drew the attention of
the Central Soil and Water Conservation Research and Training Center, Chandigarh. A reconnaissance survey conducted by the
Centre under the leadership of Shri P.R. Mishra, the then Officer-in-Charge, revealed that the major source of sediment was about
twenty-six per cent of the catchment area located in the close proximity of Sukhomajri and a few nearby villages. Sedimentation
was caused by the erosion of the bare hill slopes caused by over -grazing particularly by goats whose rearing had been the
traditional occupation of the Gujjars inhabiting the village.


The attitudinal change as manifested in the concept of 'social fencing', was strengthened through the constitution of a village society
in 1979 called the 'Water Users' Association', which later emerged as "Hill Resource Management Society' (HRMS), duly
registered. The HRMS discharges three main functions;
(i) protection of hilly areas from grazing and illicit felling of trees,
(iii) DEMO
distribution of irrigation water from dams on payment basis and,
maintenance of dams, water conveyance systems and other assets.

The sources of income to the society are:irrigation water charges, sale of bhabbar and fodder grasses from forest area, income from
leasing dam for fish culture and, one time membership fee. With the increase in income, both from farm and dairy sector, the
economy of the villagers has shown a quantum jump. The villagers have been spending part of their income for constructing houses
and a part in acquiring assets and modern gadgets.
To address the problem the Research Center applied soil conservation techniques developed by comprising of mechanical
and vegetative measures. This reduced the runoff sediment from the highly eroded Shivaliks at a spectacular rate from eighty tonnes
to less than one tonne per hectare, within a short span of a decade. The vegetative measures consisted of planting of tree species
like khair (Acacia catechu) and shisham (Dalbergia sissoo), in pits and bhabbar grass (Eulaliopsis binata) at mounds of
trenches, and also Agave americana and Ipomea cornea, in critical areas to protect the soil against erosion. However, all these
measures for containing the sediment in situ did not succeed in the absence of the willing cooperation from the people of
Sukhomajri, who depended for their sustenance on the resources available in the catchment area. Hence, to promote agriculture
and water availability in the area earthen dams were constructed. This resulted in rain water harvesting & storage which could be
used by the villages for agriculture through out the year. Thus dependence of cattle grazing and rearing. The concept of social
fencing gained wide recognition. The society agreed to protect the hilly watersheds from grazing and illicit cutting of vegetation and
in turn, was allowed to cut grass to stall feed their cattle and collects dry and dead wood or pruned branches for their domestic fuel
consumption. As a result, the forest areas which had a desolate look in the beginning of the project were covered with grass and
trees within a period of 10 to 15 years. Grass production increased more than double in the same period (from 3.82 t/ha to 7.72

Tree stocking in catchment area of three dams (Number per hectare)&(In percentage)
Year Dam Number
1980 103 (3.3) 64 (2.0) 27 (0/8)
1984 196 113 67
1988 288 161 112
1990 382 291 181
1992 393 (18.8) 415 (15.5) 211 (6.7)

Rain Water Harvesting:

At Sukhomajri, four earthen dams have been built between 1976 and 1985. These serve three
main purposes; firstly, to check instantly the gully formation in agricultural fields and, thereby, effectively prevent silting through the
erosion of soil; secondly, to store surplus rainwater from the catchment area to be used later for irrigation after the withdrawal of
monsoon and thirdly, rehabilitation of the catchment.

Details of rainwater harvesting dams at Sukhomajri

Dam No.


area (ha)
capacity (m)
Command area
Cost (Rs.)

III 1980 1.5 9500 2.0 23,000
IV 1985 2.6 19300 5.0 1,50,000
(In percentage)


With the availability of irrigation water mainly for rabi crops and introduction of improved agro -techniques, there was manifold
increase in crop yields both for kharif and rabi. The average crop yields obtained before the project and during 2000 are given in


Crop Pre-project (1975-76) Post-Project (1999-2000)
Area (ha) Average Total yield Area (ha) Average Total yield
yield (q/ha) (q) yield (q/ha) (q)
Kharif - - - - - -
Maize 8.73 6.0 52.0 26.73 19.5 521
Sorghum 4.70 80.0 376.0 12.86 140.0 1800
Pulses 0.56 3.0 1.68 - - -
Paddy - - - 11.70 25.0 293
Rabi - - - - - -
Wheat 8.60 8.0 69.00 46.1 27.0 1245
Gram 2.26 4.0 9.04 -- -- --
Sugarcane 1.20 150.0 180.0 1.4 250 350


Social compulsions, economic considerations, self restrain and availability of ample quantity of grass and fodder, both, from forest
area and agricultural fields, brought about a dramatic change in the cattle composition in the village. Besides, barseem (Trifolium
alaxandrinum) is now being grown over an area of 4 ha with an annual biomass production of 140 tonnes. This has given a fillip to
the dairy sector and boosted milk production over the years.


The Departments of Forests, Agriculture and Soil Conservation, the World Bank aided Integrated Watershed Development
Project (IWDP), in the North-West Shivalik States, have already implemented hundreds of such projects in this region. To site an
example, till 1996 the Forest Department Haryana built approximately 93 rainwater harvesting dams covering 53 villages and about
70 such dams were built by Department of Soil Conservation, Punjab. The IWDP (Kandi Project) has adopted this model on a
massive scale in the North-West Shivalik States.


· Peoples’ participation must be ensured right from the beginning.
· The needs and the problems of the people must be identified at the outset.
· Unless a project is aimed at meeting their needs, solving their problems and mitigating their hardship, it may not succeed.
· Watershed Management Projects should have short gestation period. The benefits should available in shortest possible
· Constitution of a village society (HRMS) must be a pre-requisite before taking up such projects.
· The emphasis should be on sustainability and equity, i.e., all the common property resources must be available to all
sections of the society.

The institutional mechanisms by which the villagers of Sukhomajri in the State of Haryana, India, share the costs and
benefits of watershed development are described. Village-level management in Sukhomajri revolves around the Hill Resource
Management Society (HRMS). Runoff ponds were constructed, free grazing was eliminated, and erosion was controlled. As a
result, vegetation on the hillsides was regenerated, siltation into Sukhna Lake declined by about 95%, saving the downstream city of
Chandigarh about US$ 200 000 annually in dredging and related costs. At the time the project began in 1976, barely 5% of the
hillside above Sukhomajri contained vegetative cover. By 1992, the production of various useful grasses rose from 40 kg/ha to 3
t/ha, while the tree density increased from 13 to 1292/ha. Villagers that harvest grass pay the HRMS, which in turn distributes all its
revenues equally among the households. One of the lessons learned is that politically weak people need either legal rights or some

other form of leverage if they are to insist on receiving and equitable share of benefits. Unfortunately, most watershed projects are
very conservative when it comes to promoting equity through usufruct sharing mechanism.