In Odisha, the concept of watersheds was first introducted during the 2nd Five Year Plan [1956 – 61] and refined during the 5th Plan through the Directorate of Soil Conservation. In the beginning of the 8th Plan, three major projects namely namely – Integrated Watershed Development Project (IWMP), National Watershed Development Project for Rainfed Area (NWDPRA) and Indo – Danish Comprehensive Watershed Development Project (IDCWDP) were launched in the State with the primary objectives to –
- Prevent land degradation
- Promote & Balance the eco – system
- Enhance capacity to retain moisture
- Increase the fertility and productivity of the soil
- Increase ground water recharge with soil conservation measures
Apart from these, watershed development projects were also implemented under other Schemes including the Employment Assurance Scheme (EAS), Drought Prone Area Programme (DPAP) and Integrated Wastelands Development Programme (IWDP) on a watershed basis.
However, all these projects primarily focused on water harvesting structures. Early indication of participatory development projects in Odisha can be found in the IFAD supported OTDP projects in Indo – German Watershed Development (IGWD) projects. Participatory watershed development projects in Odisha evolved after the introduction of the revised watershed guidelines of 2001 developed by Ministry of Rural Development (MoRD), Govt. of India and Janasahabhagita guidelines of the Ministry of Agriculture, Govt. of India.
Background of OWDM – Watershed Development programmes funded through various sources were executed in Odisha through District Rural Development Agencies (DRDA) and Directorate of Soil Conservation. The execution of watershed was in adherences to the prescribed guidelines to Govt. of India, management related gaps persisted in the process of implementation. There was no ‘single window’ system to monitor all the watersheds implemented under different government and non-government schemes. Also, convergence in thematic areas, both technical and non – technical was lacking.
In the year 2000, the Govt of Odisha established the Odisha Watershed Development Mission (OWDM), as a society under the Societies Registration Act to plan, coordinate, supervise and monitor all watershed projects with a special focus on creating an enabling environment for the State to initiate people centered watershed projects. The OWDM was managing watershed development schemes under the IWDP, DPAP, ACA, NWDPRA, EAS and WORLP, etc. At present, more than 3000 watersheds are under implementation throughout Odisha covered under the Scheme PMKSY (erstwhile IWMP).
The OWDM was created during 2000-01 under the Department of Agriculture. It is a registered society responsible for planning, monitoring, supervising and implementing all watershed programmes in a coordinated manner in the State. OWDM acts as a facilitating organization with the responsibility of creating knowledge and resources by collaborating with agencies having expertise in various aspects of watershed development, to function as an integral part of GoO with adequate operational autonomy regarding interpretation of guidelines and with the accountability of improving the quality of process of watershed development programmes in the State. The purpose is to facilitate sustainable rural development in the State through watershed management with a focus on marginalized and vulnerable people by way of various sustainable initiatives, bringing in convergence in various development efforts, establishing new processes and practices, encouraging innovations and learning, building people centered institutions and playing a catalytic role in the process of policy formation with the sole objective of improving livelihood options of the people with efficient natural resource management while ensuring clarity and transparencies in all it activities.