Palampur (April 1): A joint initiative by a local panchayat and an urban civic body here has shown the way ahead for effective water resource management and utilisation in Himachal Pradesh.
The Palampur Water Governance Initiative (PWGI) has been going on since 2009 under the Indo-German bilateral cooperation project – Capacity Building of Panchayati Raj Institutions in Himachal Pradesh (PRI Project). In a unique institutional arrangement, a range of stakeholders have come together under the PWGI for a common cause. These included Palampur municipal council, irrigation & public health department, HP forest department, Bandla panchayat, HP Eco-development Society and a number of other interested persons.
The objective was to protect and augment Bohal spring, located in Bandla panchayat, which provides part of the drinking water supply to Palampur town. They were supported by GIZ India, which through the PRI project, brought in external experts and agencies such as Pune-based ACWADAM, to professionally examine the issue and collaboratively develop a way forward.
In October 2010, an agreement was reached between Palampur municipal council and the Bohal-Odi Village Forest Development Society (VFDS) for the protection of catchment area of Bohal spring. The agreement endorses a 20-year Joint Forest Management Plan to protect the catchment of the spring, besides committing the Council to pay a sum of Rs 10,000 to the Bohal-Odi VFDS as ‘Payment for Ecosystem Services’ (PES).
PWGI is possibly the first attempt at using the concept of PES to ensure drinking water security of a town, where the water sources lie beyond the boundaries of the town itself. This is also an innovative model to demonstrate rural-urban linkage for water security and convergence and joint action between various departments and local government bodies.
To disseminate the lessons of the PWGI at state level, an event was organized on March 24 at Shimla by the PRI project. This event was attended by representatives of various departments of government of HP, representatives of urban local bodies, and women from Bohal-Odi VFDS in Palampur. The occasion was also marked by the release of a documentary, booklet and poster on the Palampur Water Governance Initiative.