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Soil Conservation Training Centre, DAC, Hazaribagh

Out of India's total geographical area of 329 million hectare, 175 million hectare of land has been classified as degraded. About 60 per cent of cultivated land suffers from soil erosion, water logging and salinity problems. The per capita land availability is also continuously declining (0.380 ha in 1950; 0,356 ha in 1960; 0.199 ha in 1990; 0.150 ha in 2000; 0.129 ha in 2010; 0.085 ha in 2030). Most of this area is rainfed and prone to recurring drought. Further, about 65 per cent of the sown area in India falls into the rainfed category. Rainfed areas are characterized by depleting water resources and vegetative cover, decreasing productivity of crop, live stock and human resources, a high level of poverty, hunger and malnutrition, and increasing migration of both human and cattle population at times of distress.


The environmental, economic and social sustainability depends on the management of land, vegetation resources that provide life-supporting systems for human beings and animals. Over exploitation and improper management of natural resources for growing population demand, raising standards of living, enhanced industrialization and economic activities are causing serious threat to environmental degradation.


The Damodar, a comparatively small river running down a distance of 540 kms. originates in the Khamarpeth hills in the Palamu district in Jharkhand. It has a drainage area of 24234.60 sq. km., Out of which 17513.08 sq. km. constitutes the upper valley and the rest constitutes the lower valley or the Damodar flood plain. The area from the top of the rivers up to its confluence with its principal tributary, the Barakar, constitutes the upper valley and the area below the confluence is called the lower valley. Parts of the Chottanagpur districts of Palamu, Ranchi, Hazaribag ,Giridih, Koderma, Bokaro, Chatra, Jamtara, Santhal Paraganas and Dhanbad in Jharkhand and parts in Purulia district of West Bengal comprise the upper valley, while the lower valley is entirely located in West Bengal in the plains of district of Burdwan, Bankura and Howrah.


Records show that in the last years or so, serious floods have occurred in 1823, 1846, 1848, 1859, 1863, 1882, 1890, 1898, 1901, 1905, 1907, 1916, 1923, 1930, 1934, 1935 & 1948. The country side was inundated, crops and cattle were washed away and communication breached. The situation was gradually and steadily deteriorating. The highest flood ever recorded in the history of this turbulent river came in 1913 when the peak discharge was 0.18 lakh cumec. The effect of these floods was devastating. The countryside was inundated in some places upto a depth of two meters. The Grand Trunk Road was breached, railway bridges were washed away and communication were severely disrupted. So, the river Damodar was synonymic as river of "sorrow".


To overcome the menace of devastation and destruction caused by the floods, a committee mooted the idea of tackling the problems of the Damodar catchment on the model of Tennessee Valley Authority of the USA. Mr. W. L. Voorduin, a senior engineer from T.V.A prepared the preliminary memorandum, presenting an outline of a unified development plan, aiming at flood control, irrigation, power production and navigation in the Damodar valley. On the basis of this proposal, the Damodar Valley Corporation was created on the 7th July, 1948 through an act of parliament with Govt. of West Bengal, Govt. of Bihar and Govt. of India as the participating governments.


The Damodar Valley Corporation constructed four major water storage reservoirs at Tilaiya and Maithon on Barakar, Panchet on the Damodar and Konar on the Konar River. These four dams together could provide flood cushion of 1863 million ha-m and with this flood cushion, it was calculated that a flood of 18,408 cumec could be moderated to 11,338 cumec.


After the construction of these four dams, it was observed that the rate of silt inflow into the reservoirs were much higher than the designed rate. This threatened the life of the reservoirs which could have resulted in their premature death and the river was bound to return to its former habit. The catchment area of these reservoirs which stretches over the undulating terrain of the plateau is seriously affected by soil erosion. Large volume of silt in the form of coarse and fine sediment is removed from the area by erosion under the impact of torrential rain which runs down the numerous stream channels during the monsoon. Thus the problem of reservoir siltation assumed great importance in the case of the big River Valley Project like the Damodar Valley Corporation for the prolongation of the life of the reservoirs and hence the need for soil conservation and silt control. The Soil Conservation Department has founded at Hazaribag to tackle the twin problems of (a) reservoir siltation and (b) soil deterioration. Thus the department came into existence in 1949 with its head quarter at Hazaribag. Realising the gravity of the situation the department has undertaken intensive integrated soil and water conservation measures spanning over a period of more than fifty years.


In line with watershed approach, sound soil and water conservation measures are required to be taken up in all lands, particularly on priority basis in areas having erratic rainfall. Rainfed areas in India account for 67 percent of the total cultivable are. Rainfed agriculture contributes 45% food and supports 40% of the India's population. Cultivation of almost 90% of the course cereals and pulses, little more than 80% of the oilseeds, 66% of cotton, and 55% of the paddy is concentrated in the rainfed regions. The crop productivity from drylands in general is low and unstable. In order to enhance and stabilize crop production in rainfed regions, due importance was necessary for rainwater management and its use.


Given the erratic rainfall pattern declining water table in several locations, the emphasis on micro-watershed development, over the past few years, acknowledges that rainfed areas need to be developed and managed in a sustainable manner in order to increase food and livelihood security. Largely the government is funding watershed development programs in the country. Sustainable production depends considerably upon proper development, conservation and use of land resources at micro level. Therefore, watershed management becomes increasingly important in a way to improve livelihood of people while conserving and regenerating their natural resources. The role and importance of community participation ensuring the success and the sustainability of the watershed management is now widely accepted.


The Centrally Sponsored Scheme of Soil Conservation in the catchments of River Valley Projects (RVP) was initiated in IIIrd Five Year Plan (FYP) with the objectives aimed at: a) reducing siltation of the reservoir by treatment of catchment areas; b) preventing catchment degradation and enhancing its productivity; c) ensuring adequate irrigation water to command areas; and d) providing employment opportunities in rural areas. At present, the RVP scheme is being implemented in 33 catchments spread over 71.95 million ha in 18 States (Before recent reorganization of the States in the country). Out of total treatable area of 18.02 million ha, 3.36 million ha has been treated up to the end of VIIIth FYP with a total expenditure of Rs. 6739 million. For IXth FYP, the physical target is 0.59 million ha with a total financial allocation comprising 50% grant and 50% loan to the States and 100% grant on matching basis to Damodar Valley Corporation.


Over the past fifty years there have been many variations in conceptual models, objectives and implementation of models of watershed programme. The initial protection oriented approach got enlarged to restoration of degraded areas and then to protection cum production oriented objectives on related natural resources and eco-restoration. Watershed management is a single window, integrated, participatory and sustainable area development programme. Watershed concept is an integrated approach of harmonised use of natural resources like land, water, vegetation, livestock, fisheries and human resources.


To develop skilled man power in the field of integrated watershed management through its technical innovations and experiences DVC and G.O.I. set up its training centre at Hazaribag with following objectives


1.                                             To create awareness about the importance of soil & water conservation works in national perspective with special reference to DVC.


2.                                             To impart training for proper understanding of multidisciplinary approach and to handle the complex problems of soil erosion and land degradation for improving soil health and increasing productivity of land and water.


3.                                             To involve trainees in the integrated watershed project planning for sustainability of resources and society.


4.                                             To transfer the technology through training, demonstration and publications to state extension & developmental agencies.


5.                                             To train officers & staff in the specialised field of Hydrology & Sediment  Monitoring and to create awareness about the importance of hydrologic & sediment monitoring for the programme evaluation and for collection, analysis and interpretation of data..


6.                                             To train personnel in newly emerging technologies in the field of integrated watershed management.


7.                                             To train the progressive farmers and leaders of the village Institution in the area of watershed management.


8.                                             To exchange & disseminate knowledge in watershed management through seminars, symposia at state and national level.





Soil conservation means applying all the necessary practices to maintain the capability of the land for which it is suited and to improve the productivity of agricultural land.


(Report of the Working Group IV Plan Proposals).


Soil conservation is not confined to control soil erosion alone, it also means judicious land use for sustained and maximum production from the land. It encompasses all the activities required for controlling soil erosion, management of surplus water, conserving natural resources and judicious land use for increasing production.


It was estimated that a total area of 175 million hectare out of the total geographical area of 328 million hectare in the country suffer from various forms erosion hazards. Imminent necessity for interventions against the rapid siltation of reservoirs was discussed in a seminar held at Hirakud during 1957.


Organised efforts for soil and water conservation in Damodar Valley Corporation commenced during the first five year plan and such activities undertaken through the Soil Conservation Department was pioneer in the country. The hue and cry made presently for Multi-disciplinary approach to take watershed development programmes was envisaged by DVC right at its inception. This multi-disciplinary approach under one umbrella has met a great success and has become an example to the entire nation.


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