Action Research

Action research has always been the hall mark of SPWD work and SPWD prides itself on being able to translate the implications of policy and research issues on the ground on one hand and be able to highlight key areas of concern for policy makers academicians and donors on the other. This independent function of SPWD has been facilitated by the corpus fund of Rupees sixty million and its own office building in Delhi, a part of it is rented out . The rental and interest income from the corpus investments amount to Rupees 7.5 m and is currently used to pay about one third of the organizational expenses of SPWD. Another one third comes from project support for specific programmes like SRI, WGP, NREGA and Livelihoods, Water Quality and wastelands characterisation. While SPWD use to meet a third of its expenses from rental income, the new rules of L&DO (Land and Development Organisation) will reduce this source by about thirty to forty percent in the long run while creating a temporary financial crunch in the Short run (Six months). SPWD has managed to meet this challenge in the short run by increasing the efficiency of the Staff (both programme and Support Staff). In the medium term SPWD would need to increase spending by Rs 20-25 lakhs to develop a cutting edge in some of the greenfield areas being explored above. Critical medium term support for a period of five years, should help SPWD identify and groom staff who can carry forward the agenda identified above.

Prior to SPWD undertaking any implementation, the need to understand the context was felt. In this connection, an exercise to estimate the wastelands in this country was undertaken. This exercise for the first time attempted to place the magnitude and dimensions of the problem before the country. A series of workshops were undertaken to understand from civil society institutions what they thought of the issues being placed before them. One important dimension that surfaced from this study was the fact that wastelands are private, public and common. In this context, it is clear that the land is being used for some purpose or the other and hence any treatment plan has to take into account the existing/proposed usage pattern of the local community. This approach helped SPWD to considerably widen its perception of how to deal with the issue of wastelands and a wide variety of experiments and documentation in specific regional and local contexts emerged. Moving to watershed development and later to integrating it at the sub basin level was recognition of this approach as good for arresting degradation of land and water regimes and improving the productive potential of local natural resources.

Over the last 24 years since SPWD first initiated its study of Wastelands, the government has been able to commission satellite based studies of the wasteland. DoLR has published this study by NRSA on a 1: 50,000 scale at district level in the form of a wastelands Atlas in 2005. An exercise to harmonise different approaches to the estimates of wastelands have been completed and the joint exercise of ICAR (Indian Council of Agricultural Research), NRSA (National Remote Sensing Agency), NRAA (National Rainfed Area Authority) and NAAS (National Academy for Agricultural Sciences).

In this context SPWD decided to revisit its study of 1984 in order to use the latest information and techniques of satellite imagery and GIS on the one hand and its own understanding of the process of formation of wastelands on the other. DoLR under its TDET programme is funding the study which is spread over 7 agro ecological zones in Seven States of the country.