Main content area

Community-based groundwater and ecosystem restoration in semi-arid north Rajasthan (1): Socio-economic progress and lessons for groundwater-dependent areas

Everard, Mark
Ecosystem services 2015 v.16 pp. 125-135
ecological restoration, ecosystems, experts, governance, groundwater, groundwater recharge, indigenous knowledge, interviews, nongovernmental organizations, politics, semiarid zones, socioeconomics, villages, water harvesting, water stress, watersheds, India
Groundwater is a vital resource in arid and semi-arid regions, increasingly relied upon for year-round access, though lack of both study and regulation contribute to unsustainable pressures potentially contributing to a negative spiral of ecological, social and economic decline. Using field visits, interviews with locals and experts, and literature reviews, we explored a successful programme of community-based groundwater recharge in three adjacent catchments (the Arvari, Sarsa and Baghani) in semi-arid north Rajasthan, India, led by the NGO Tarun Bharat Sangh (TBS) in order to determine how successes were achieved and could be replicated. TBS-led initiatives rebuilt traditional village governance structures and participation in community-designed and maintained water harvesting structures (WHSs), which were efficient both economically and in technical design using indigenous knowledge. Enhanced seasonal groundwater recharge enabled by WHSs regenerated aquatic, farmed and natural ecosystems, underpinning a positive cycle of interdependent social and economic regeneration. Locally appropriate, integrated social and technical solutions maintaining this positive cycle have increased the quality of ecosystems and the wellbeing of local people. We used the STEEP (Social, Technological, Economic, Environmental, Political) framework to stratify outcomes, exploring principles underpinning successful local and catchment-scale regeneration and drawing out lessons transferrable to similarly water-stressed regions.