WASHINGTON: The World Bank Board of Executive Directors today approved an $80 million loan to improve water management practices and increase agricultural productivity in selected Gram Panchayats (Village Councils) in Himachal Pradesh, a mountain state richly endowed with natural resources.
The Integrated Project for Source Sustainability and Climate Resilient Rain-Fed Agriculture in Himachal Pradesh will beimplemented in 428 selected Gram Panchayats in 10 districts benefiting over 400,000 smallholder farmers, women and pastoral communities.
As a mountainous state, HP is particularly vulnerable to climate change and associated risks. Many of the lowland areas lack access to irrigation water and depend on decreasing amounts of rainfall during the critical monsoon season. Agricultural production and snowlines have already shifted to higher altitudes, impacting the production of fruits, including HP’s iconic apples. Climate change is also expected to increase average temperatures and decrease rainfall in the lowlands, while both temperatures and rainfall are expected to increase in the highlands, which could lead to more extreme flooding events.
The project will improve upstream water sources in forests, pastures and grasslands and ensure sufficient water is available for sustainable agriculture both in Himachal Pradesh and in downstream states.
“Climate change is a global issue. But, addressing its impact requires building resilience at the local level,” said Junaid Ahmad, World Bank Country Director in India “Not surprisingly, Himachal Pradesh’s history of devolving greater responsibility to Gram Panchayats offers the state a great advantage. Through GPs, Himachal supports farmers and pastoral communities in securing their livelihoods in face of climate variability and challenging agro-ecological conditions,” he added
Enhancing the climate resilience of agriculture and its allied activities is a key component of the project for which efficient use of water is the focal point. The project will set up hydrological monitoring stations to monitor the water quality and quantity. This will not only help lay the foundation for future water budgeting through better land use and agricultural investments, but also ensure more holistic catchment area treatment (CAT) plans that are based on source sustainability, carbon sequestration, and water quality.
The investment in downstream areas will augment the use of irrigation and help farmers shift from low-value cereal production to climate-resilient crop varieties and to higher-value fruit and vegetable production. The focus on increasing climate resilience and water productivity will help farmers maximize their financial returns on water use. The project will also work in collaboration with other government programs particularly those of the agriculture, horticulture, and animal husbandry departments.
Supporting institutions through training of gram panchayats will help the state better manage its water resources.
“We hope that climate adaptation and mitigation measures under the project will help the state plan land-based resource management in the upper catchments of targeted micro-watersheds in Himachal Pradesh and enhance agriculture and water productivity in the downstream areas,” *said Christopher Paul Jackson, Senior Agriculture Economist and World Bank’s Task Team Leader for the project. “Ultimately, such an effort will help improve forest cover, increase water quality and quantity, reduce erosion, and enhance community participation, including that of women, youth, and disadvantaged groups.”*
Such efforts are also expected to generate carbon benefits for the state. The net GHG benefit per hectare for the project area is estimated to be 0.6 tCO2/ha/year.
The $80 million loan from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD), has a final maturity of 14.5 years including a grace period offive years.