Building Training Capacities for Reviving Springs in the Mid-Hills of Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH), with a Special Focus on Bhutan

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Springs are the main source of water for millions of people in the mid-hills of the Hindu Kush Himalaya (HKH), on which both rural and urban communities depend for their domestic and agricultural needs. Springs also provide base flow to river systems, regulate ecosystems, and have cultural value. Despite being a vital resource, they have been poorly studied, resulting in a significant data gap on the dynamics of spring water flow, characteristics of local springs, and hydrogeology governing the occurrence and movement of water in underground aquifers in the mountains. Springs are also part of complex socio-technical and informal governance systems with pronounced gender, equity, and cultural dimensions, which are also not well understood. This has led to ineffective policies and misguided interventions.

There is mounting anecdotal evidence that springs across the HKH are drying up, causing unprecedented water stress on communities. It is widely believed that changing land use, infrastructure development, and climate change are affecting spring flow, but the extent of this problem is not well known. In its 12th Five Year Plan (2018–2023), the Watershed Management Division (WMD) of Bhutan’s Department of Forest and Park Services plans to undertake spring and springshed management as a major activity. As part of this initiative, a four day workshop on “Springs and Springshed Management for Reviving Drying Springs” was organized in Thimphu in November 2017, which helped frame a common understanding of springshed management research and implementation. WMD officials realized that further detailed practical or on-the-job training is required for field technicians and implementers.

Training on Springshed Revival

In response to the request from the WMD, to organize hands-on training for spring revival, ICIMOD, together with Advanced Centre for Water Resources Development and Management (ACWADAM), has developed a research-cum-implementation and capacity building program. A protocol for reviving springs was developed and tested at several pilot sites in India and Nepal. A detailed technical manual was published by ICIMOD and ACWADAM in 2018, which will form the basic textbook for training on spring revival.

Objective

The overall objective of the training is to build the capacity of practitioners responsible for field implementation to revive drying springs in Bhutan by imparting skills and understanding of springshed management.