India´s Marwar region, located in the Great Indian Thar Desert, is the most densely populated arid zone in the world. The economy of the region has traditionally revolved around animal husbandry and subsistence agriculture, mostly rain-fed, while its primary ecological resources have been mostly rain-fed water bodies, pastures, grazing lands, and sacred groves. Rainfall averages 200mm; climatic extremes such as droughts are a recurring phenomenon.
Not surprisingly, conservation and water resource management is critical in the Thar Desert, as it seriously affects not only the availability of water for drinking and household use, but for other sectors such as agriculture, biodiversity conservation, sanitation, and health. People in the region, particularly women, walk up to six hours a day across the desert under scorching sun to fill a 20 litre urn with water. Changing climate and unpredictable droughts are making the situation only worse. In its 2004 initial communication to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, India presented Rajasthan as one of the states in the country most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
Jal Bhagirathi Foundation, an NGO has been working with communities, building their capacity to first develop village based integrated water resource management (IWRM) plans and then implement them in the village. Effective and accountable village water associations are facilitated to plan, manage, and implement micro-projects to address water and land management. The focus is on building the capacity of these institutions with knowledge and skill, rather than top down investments in infrastructure.
The approach has been successful and Jal Sabhas have revived land and water management systems, some villages achieving water security. This experience reveals that creating social capital and empowering community institutions can be a realistic way forward for adaptation to climate change, particularly in the developing world. After all, vulnerability to climate change is a function of communities´ capacity to cope with changing scenarios. The poster will detail the process, implementation and impact of IWRM.