Forest SurveyingForestrypediaWatershed Management

Planning for Watershed Development

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It is a verb for the plan which according to the Oxford dictionary is “intention of doing something” OR; “A set of things done to achieve something or a goal.”


  • W-shed involves substantial (considerable) commitment of public funds, it can affect fundamentally private interests and deep-scaled habits of people; and it requires major efforts in the political sectors.
  • No public administration can embark on (begin doing something) any such program, or suggest the necessary legal actions unless concrete ideas have been formed on the tangible results to be expected from the actions.
  • W-shed aims at attaining certain objectives through planning:
    • Rehabilitation where w-shed has deteriorated because of past misuse.
    • Protection of desirable w-shed conditions under continuous use of the land for primary procedure.
    • Improvement of water yield by increasing total flow, reducing sedimentation or changing the stream flow design.
  • W-shed is usu confined (keep within limits) to coordinated biological and engineering works. But the social condition of the people, both living within and in the downstream lands cannot be simply neglected.
  • Such places, therefore, integrated as large National development plans or integrated development plans.
  • W-shed contains all the technical, social and economic works and measures required for integral development, with the object of rational utilization of the land and water resources for the benefit of the population.
  • W-shed planning as two aspects, both not necessarily covered in one and the same plan:
  1. Firstly, it should facilitate delirious as to what should be done. This is elaborated in the project proposed.
  2. Secondly, it defines how things should be done. This is a detailed worked plan.


  1. Planning is necessary for the simple reason that capital is scarce in every national economy. It must be used to the best economic, social or political advantage. For this, the government must be able to choose from among alternatives competing for fund allocation on basis of economics, social and political merits. The choice is best made through comparison of place for alternative projects, or alternative places for the same project. The most pronounce projects are selected for inclusion in the budget. The criteria for selection at top government land are either economic feasibility or may be entirely social or political. It is up to the discretion (tact) of the government on which criterion the emphasis should be placed in a particular case.
  2. Planning is also necessary in order to set targets and judge the proposals of achieving them or define the risk of not achieving them. If funds are committed on the basis of inadequate and unreliable planning, it may turn out after years that efforts, time and funds were wasted on a futile (in vain) project.
  3. Because, w-shed programmes are extremely complex since many interrelated factors are involved – physical, technical, biological, humane, etc – a substantial area of land are concerned and timing of the sequence of works to be geared. Without a plan, it is impossible to have a comprehensive view of the whole complex of works.
  4. Planning is also necessary for coordination among different public sectors and to decide which task should be public responsibility and which left for the private sector.
  5. It is also needed to prevent not only the technical solutions to the problems and cost estimates but also the wish of the people concerned their preparedness (readiness) for cooperation and financial resources. A project with sound technical measures may fail due to lack of cooperation of local people.
  6. It can be used as an instrument for discussion with the people in public meetings to arouse interest in, and support for the project.
  7. A plan is a basis for rational development. The better the plan, the easier it is to accept a project.


In w-shed, a diversity of the area is dealt, from small homogenous drainage of few hundred or thousand hectares to complex river basins. As a rule, the larger the area will be the more diverse problems to be tackled; but even the development of a small drainage can pose numerous tasks before planners when land in intensively cultivated and heavy population pressures. So according to the nature of the problem and the scope of work, the organization and procedure for planning are chosen.
W-shed improvement in a small forested catchment may be entirely the responsibility of the Forest Service, but a large organization will be required to deal with the diversity found in a large w-shed with all kind of land uses, and private as well as public lands.
The planning process and organization both grow with the diversity of the problems and size of the drainage area.
Irrespective of the size of the project and the nature of the technical problems involved, there are few principles that proved useful to follow in watershed planning.

  1. Firstly, there must be a unit responsible for planning, planning cannot be the duty of a single person or group on the operational service. Planning persons must have practical field experience.
  2. Secondly, the planning group must include experts for all technology sectors that are involved in a particular project. For instance, a forester cannot do the job of an agronomist (A person who studies soil management, land cultivation, and crop production) and vice versa.
  3. Thirdly, the planning unit should, as far as possible, be an integral part of the organization responsible for project operation.
  4. But due to the shortage of staff, these rules are rarely followed in developing countries.


Three phases are common in watershed planning: the reconnaissance survey, the integrated survey and the detailed phase of watershed work plan preparation.


Reconnaissance Survey:

Watershed planning usually commences with a reconnaissance survey and report, which have details about:

  • Problems of a particular watershed and their solution.
  • Discussion on feasibilities/ possibilities
  • Estimations of cost and benefits

These are based on detailed studies but rather in form of an expertise. Even for this there must be supporting evidence and this requires:

  1. Collection and preliminary analysis of available data and information.
  2. Field inspection
  3. Consultation with local Govt agencies and tribal and communal organization.

The reconnaissance is usually the job of a small group of people. It may be taken on the initiative of an integrated Govt official at territorial level, on the initiative of the people themselves or by request of a senior official of the region or politician.
The report resulting from it is submitted to the competent senior planning, development or finance authority. On its basis, the problem can be better appraised, and the decision can be reached whether the project proposal should be further pursued or not.
This first reconnaissance report – to be distinguished from more detailed plans – thus forms merely a basis for discussion at a higher level. There are few cases where a solution of the problems is possible through a single technical plan and within the authority of a single Govt agency eg the CCF, which then can be requested to work out the detailed project proposal.

Integrated Development Plan:

Where larger basins or numerous technical sectors are involved, an integrated development plan will have to be prepared, and for this, a planning organization will have to be set to conduct further studies.
Detailed planning, as a rule, must be teamwork among the forester, agronomist, engineer, hydrologist, ecologist, geologist, economist, and sociologist and so on. On this team, a co-coordinator must be appointed.
Where watershed development concerns a large area – part or whole of a river basin – and where there are some national interests, it is advisable to form a planning bureau, at least temporarily, in which senior officials of the specialized technical services are reported. By doing so the inter-ministerial and inter-departmental cooperation simplifies. There is a body of the planning commission in Pakistan for planning the different developmental project, but there is no any specified body for watershed development in a country, except body for the watershed.
Some countries have special authorities for the development of key regions such as Tennessee Valley Authority in the USA and Damodar Valley Authority in India for planning and execution of river basin development.
The responsibility for watershed planning is best laid down in the law after the Forest Department is made responsible for safeguarding surface water resources with the argument that wild lands anyhow under the control of this agency. No matter which departmental approach is chosen, in its constitution the need for a planning office must be laid down to ensure that the interest of all sectors concerned is represented.
Following approval of the project proposal, a probe should be conducted to know the response of the local population to the project ie whether and to what extent people will cooperate and contribute in the project. The possibilities for organizing cooperation of people also worked out. Local people should also be kept informed periodically of the progress of planning. The leaders of local organizations, elected by people themselves, must have authority to impose on the member’s certain obligations, be it financially or regarding work input.


The kinds and amount of data necessary for an integrated watershed plan vary with the magnitude and nature of the project. But area for small projects a minimal set of data is required.

Maps and Photographs:

The first requirement is always topographical maps which provide information about the contour of the terrain. The planning may also be based on aerial mosaic photographs which give information about present land use pattern, vegetative distribution range and forest inventories and erosion type and occurrences.

Climatologic data:

It is an essential instrument in w-shed planning, as the hydrologic behavior of the land is largely determined by the climatic pattern and definite limits are acted by it. Of prime interests are precipitation data, total annual amount, seasonal distribution, snowrainfall proportion, intensity frequency and duration of rainfall, its variations from year to year, other data include: hailstorm occurrence, means max and min temperatures, humidity of the air near ground, wind velocity and direction, free evaporation, direction of sunshine, solar radiation, etc.

Hydrologic information:

The hydrologic information gives knowledge of characteristic of w-shed, variable and non-variable ones, and this provides essential clues as to management prospects and possibilities as well as limitations. The hydrologic data includes stage, discharge, recession after the storm, flood peaks, sediment movement, extreme recorded floods, flood damage and things of a similar nature.

Edaphic data:

The Edaphic/ soil data is essential to know about areas of particular erosion hazard and flood and sediment producing sub-sectors. The Edaphic data includes soil depth, texture, structure, porosity, pH, fertility, and hydrologic properties.

Local capability classification

Besides soil inventory land capability classification is also important. On basis of this future distribution of forest, range and cultivated lands and cultivation system are adopted. Here are different systems of classification. The American system comprises of 8 classes; the first 4 classes are of cultivable land and last 4 classes are of grouped as non-cultivable land.
Class – 1: 

  • Plain or nearly plain
  • Soil deep
  • No erosion nor deterioration
  • No restriction for utilization
  • No precaution for use except maintenance of fertility

Class – 2:

  • Slightly erodable
  • Less plain
  • No restriction on utilization
  • Precaution includes maintenance of fertility, adoption of conservation tilling and cropping system is necessary.

Class – 3:

  • Sloping lands
  • The range of texture classes, permeability, and depth
  • Advanced Erosion
  • Limited Fertility, choice of crop restricted
  • Require erosion control measure for continuous cultivation.
  • Conservative tilling and cropping systems have to be applied.

Class – 4:

  • Suitable for limited cultivation but not for row crops, the complete cover is required
  • In case of cultivating structural erosion control measure are required.
  • Whether such lands cultivated or not depends on economic merits.

Non – Cultivable Land:
Class – 5:

  • Saline lands of heavy wetness
  • Application of drainage system and precaution of inundation is possible and lands systematically come into higher class
  • Best used for meadows, tree planting, and grazing
  • Improvement of the cover is possible

Class – 6:

  • Wildlands unsuitable for cultivation
  • Brought under permanent vegetation cover; range or trees
  • Productivity is satisfactory
  • No additional stabilization measures required

Class – 7:

  • Similar to class – 6 but endangered by erosion
  • Additional structural works are required for adequate protection
  • Not used for cultivation
  • Conservative use of natural vegetation is required
  • Controlled grazing, active improvement by seeding, fertilizing and structural erosion control works may be required

Class -8:

  • Unproductive sites
  • Sparse vegetation, should not be utilized
  • Utilization increases erosion danger.

Socio-Economic Data/ Survey:

It is important because it gives information about the feasibility of an improvement project. This includes population density, the source of income, present employment situation and possibilities of alternative employment, type of settlement, nomadism, possibilities of rural industries and seasonal employment, land tenure, fragmentation of holdings, leadership, the structure of the farming enterprise, marketing possibilities and so on.

Economic Analysis:

Based on the information so far collected, the w-shed development plan and report can be framed and a cost estimate and economic analysis be prepared including proposals on distribution of costs b/w public and private sectors. The economic analysis shows investment costs in relation to benefits expected and enables the government to decide on the priority of the project in competition with other projects.

Watershed Working Plan:

A detailed plan of operations should be developed which permits a timely, appropriately funded operation of the plan. The plan should include:

  1. Objectives and goals of the plan
  2. The sequence of operations and procedures
  3. Procedures to be used for the various segments of the plan
  4. Time schedule which includes realistic flow from one operational sequence to another
  5. The budget which presents allocated and sources of funding
  6. Project maintenance – details of maintenance which is necessary to sustain project output at the desired level
  7. Project evaluations – the ultimate success or failure of a plan can only be determined by adequate short and long-term evaluation of the plan.
  8. The plan should be written for use by the field officer. Course obstructs and summaries should be included for use by administrators who usually do not have time for reviewing detailed plan.

For correction and improvements please use the comments section below.

Naeem Javid Muhammad Hassani is working as Conservator of Forests in Balochistan Forest & Wildlife Department (BFWD). He is the CEO of Tech Urdu ( Forestrypedia (, All Pak Notifications (, Essayspedia, etc & their YouTube Channels). He is an Environmentalist, Blogger, YouTuber, Developer & Vlogger.

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