Creation of a village spring atlas for the conservation of Himalayan springs and adapting to climate change
An article by Dr.Sandeep Tambe, Special Secretary-RM&DD, Sikkim on creation of a village spring atlas for the conservation of Himalayan springs.
18 Nov 2011

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Mountain springs emanating naturally from unconfined aquifers are the primary source of water for the rural households in the Himalayan region. With impacts of climate change, manifested in the form of rising temperatures, rise in rainfall intensity, reduction in its temporal spread and a marked decline in winter rain, the problem of dying springs is being increasingly felt across this region. 

These discrete aquifers drastically increase the challenge of monitoring water availability and managing recharge measures. These challenges are compounded by the lack of data concerning springs. A laudable step in the direction has been taken by the Government of Sikkim. The state has an extensive program for the conservation of its springs. As part of this program mapping of springs and collection of discharge data has been carried out resulting in the creation of a village spring atlas for the conservation of Himalayan springs and adapting to climate change. The importance of this project was acknowledged when it won the Special Jury Mention at the 'eNorth East Awards 2011' recently.

home page of sikkimspringsThe objective of this initiative was twofold, first to create a database of these mountain springs by undertaking resource mapping of the springs on a GIS platform to better understand this valuable resource, and the preparation of a village spring atlas. The data collected from the extensive component of the study has been made accessible online in the webportal This online database provides information on the location, GPS coordinates, land tenure, catchment status, dependency, discharge (supply / demand) of nearly 400 springs of Sikkim and is also linked to google earth. Secondly in action research mode we show that these dying springs can be revived by rainwater harvesting. Impact assessment is done by recording monthly spring discharge data along with rainfally and preparing hydrographs using this information. It is expected that the results will help to better design the revival of mountain springs and to also mainstream this approach as a climate change adaptation intervention across the Himalayas.

Feature List:

  • Springs database
  • Springs conservation
  • Springs atlas
  • Research and studies
  • Educational resources
  • Press release, photographs and videos

Coverage area:

  • Online data entry from Block level
  • Online monitoring of progress
  • Monthly update on conservation status of key springs
  • Linkage to Google Earth
  • Automatic Weather Station (AWS) weather data is also made available


  • Springs database: This database on springs provides valuable information on the spring resource. Authorized personnel can also upload/edit information in online mode, and would manage and monitor all the administrative controls which are to be updated on timely basis.
  • Spring conservation: This module helps to provide information on springs where conservation initiatives are on. Specially current information on lean period discharge compared to the baseline.
  • Spring atlas: This module linked to Google Earth shows the springs in map format overlaid as a point layer on the Google Earth platform
  • Research and Studies section: Compilation of studies, reports, field surveys with effective charts and graphs in the field of groundwater recharge, rainwater harvesting and spring conservation.
  • Educational resources section provides a collection of training material for a basic understanding of springs and their conservation which is very useful especially for students.
  • Block level weather data from AWS: 18 Automatic Weather Stations (AWS) have been installed at the Block level with the support of Department of Space, Government of India. The rainfall data from these 18 locations is provided regularly on this website

Impact of the project: The strength of the program lies in creating inhouse capacity at the Village, Block, District and State level with the help of collaborations with national institutes of repute and academic NGOs.  More than 26 awareness programs were organized since 2008 which includes training programs, exposure visits and classroom and field sessions having 1,100 participants. Also village level resource mapping using PRA tools was organized covering all the 165 Gram Panchayats of the State having as many as 8,000 participants. So this combined effort of specialized technical trainings for the staff, extensive general awareness programs for the local community and Gram Panchayats along with wide media coverage resulted in high levels of awareness of this new program in both rural and urban areas. 

Benefits of the spring atlas:

  • Better understanding of the spring water resource by providing details of various studies and reports online in one location. For students resource material is provided to know more about the springs, their typology, origin, threats and ways and means of reviving them by taking up ground water recharge
  • Extensive survey of the springs in Sikkim by providing their location superimposed on Google Earth platform along with basic information of the spring. Basic information like dependence, location, elevation, discharge etc help in identifying critical springs and thereby prioritizing them
  • Findings of experiment on reviving critical springs in various drought prone areas is also provided along with hydrographs. This learning will help in upscaling and expanding this initiative in other locations
  • Weather data from spatially disaggregated datasets is also provided for use. This data is updated from the Automated Weather Stations located in the blocks
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