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Achieving water security in rural Indian Himalayas: A participatory account of challenges and potential solutions

Sen, Sudeshna Maya, Kansal, Arun
Journal of environmental management 2019 v.245 pp. 398-408
coping strategies, cultural landscape, green infrastructure, issues and policy, livelihood, local government, markets, mountains, planning, purchasing, risk management, socioeconomics, stakeholders, state government, trees, water resources, water security, Himalayan region
The complex and diverse factors that influence water security in the Indian Himalayan Region were examined using problem and solution tree (PAST) mapping together with a field study. Five PASTs, each constructed by a different group of stakeholders, namely the state government, the local government, researchers, development agencies, and the local community, were analysed to obtain a holistic and multi-sectoral understanding of water security in the region, and the analysis was supplemented with field data. The systematic study helped in (1) identifying many factors – climatic, geographical, cultural, and socio-economic – that influence water security, (2) assessing their impacts on mountain livelihoods, and (3) documenting thirty-two potential interventions in the form of adaptations (e.g. springshed management programme) and coping strategies (e.g. buying water from informal water markets) to strengthen water security. These strategies followed three main themes namely conserving water resources, improving rural livelihood and sustainable infrastructure development and risk management. The study also helped in building a shared sense of understanding, purpose, and action between the diverse groups of stakeholders. The study suggests that ensuring water security in rural mountain areas requires holistic and multi-sectoral policies, which should be developed by including all actors in the network of stakeholders; that local conditions be given utmost importance in the policy planning cycle (e.g. focus on springs in mountains); and that cultural landscape and local identities be closely examined to reduce the inequalities in access to resources.