Featured Initiative

Usharmukti: Beyond the Outcomes

A Mega Watershed project implemented by BRLF in close collaboration with the Government of West Bengal, VA Tech Wabag, Ford Foundation, and CSO partners

Dr. Sumit Roy, Program Officer

Usharmukti (Liberation from Barrenness) is a mega-watershed development project implemented in 54 blocks in the six districts in West Bengal. The project idea originates from the learning of earlier water conservation interventions that continued to be patchy and ‘implemented as discrete islands’ rather than on a ‘large land mass’ area. It was felt that there is an immediate need to implement the concept of a watershed and its imperatives such as a broad ridge to valley treatment, hydrological considerations in treatment measures considering more extensive geography, and the catchment of a river.

Under the Usharmukti Project, the ‘watershed approach’ following ‘Ridge to Valley’ interventions principles has been taken up for a large expanse of geography in continuity, for the management of rainwater over time and affecting the production outputs and its sustainability. Usharmukti Project aimed at a comprehensive treatment with arresting the surface flow of rolling topography to recharge the groundwater and base flow of rivers and streams which led to their rejuvenation in the region and regenerated the catchment areas. The project has accelerated the pace and appropriate resource investment to transform the ecology and bring prosperity to the Usharmukti project region.

The project was initiated by the Government of West Bengal in collaboration with BRLF and six CSO partners PRADAN as the lead partner. Commissioner, MGNREGA, Panchayat, and Rural Development Department, Government of West Bengal, invited BRLF to support this project to facilitate the capacity building of MGNREGA functionaries, especially the grass-root implementing bodies such as Gram Panchayats, Blocks, Districts. In collaboration with expert CSOs, the whole ecosystem was orchestrated to effectively translate ‘today’s wage’ to ‘tomorrow’s livelihood’ for the poor communities. The project ended in July 2021.

Usharmukti has successfully established a large-scale potential for irrigated areas creating possibilities to transform the region in productive livelihood development. From August 2021, the second phase of the project Usharmukti Plus was initiated to accelerate Natural Resource Management in Watershed mode through MGNREGA in 1,911 Watersheds – an additional 90,000 ha. of land rejuvenation. Usharmukti Plus will create “ecologically sustainable livelihood development” to fast track the supply-side interventions and activate the demand-side management at a larger scale. It will establish a model for better livelihood enhancement to the poor and marginal community through MGNREGS and other allied line departments.

The Usharmukti project was funded by BRLF, VA Tech WABAG (CSR), and Ford Foundation and leveraged funds through MGNREGA and other Government schemes. The project was implemented by DRCDC, TSRD, RDA, LKP, PRASARI, Shamayita Math, and PRADAN.