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Watershed and Hydrological Restoration

Hyderabad Collective - India

The Hyderabad Collective is located amidst beautiful hills and valleys just 31km off the Outer Ring Road in Hyderabad.  Site work on the 132 Ac land commenced in 2020.

From in-depth landscape studies to intricate farm activities, the ball hasn’t stopped rolling. The major steps towards achieving food, water and power security have been taken. The rocky land that was deemed unfit for food cultivation is brimming with potential for ecological design interventions.

Maximum impact with minimal intervention – this is the crux of the design approach at Beforest. The 132 Ac collective is being designed to accommodate 88 families with complete food, water and power security. The first step in the process was to prepare a Land Use Map. Defining the zoning of the land based on physical land surveys, topography, geology & hydrology studies and drone imagery. Based on the same, the land is divided into three zones – Wilderness Zone (60 Ac), Economic Zone (12 Ac), and Combined Zone (60 Ac). Housing clusters and cultivation patches are designed in accordance with the economic & combined zones. The wilderness & combined zones account for the watershed, lakes, springs and other ecosystem services that are necessary to build our natural capital pillar.

Fencing was one of the first interventions we made to ensure controlled grazing which has a direct impact on regenerating ground cover and improving soil health. This allowed native grasses and shrubs to regrow from the native seed bank in the soil. In July 2022, riparian and marshy zones were planted with water-loving species to increase biodiversity and strengthen the riparian corridors.

Project Site

Basin Bleu Watershed - Haiti

The Bassin Bleu watershed is 6000 acres of steep hillsides and rough mountainous terrain. The once dense forest was long ago removed and since then much of the topsoil has eroded into the ocean. Deep ravines carve through the valleys as the waters continually gain energy and speed through the watershed. Silting of the ocean shoreline and flooding along populated areas are a result of the diminished water-holding capacity of the hills. 

Although the large volume of water rushing down the watershed comes from farm fields and barren hillsides, 80% of the sediment comes from the ravines themselves as they are torn out by the unimpeded torrents. 30 different sub-watersheds feed the main channel. Each of these contributes to the volume of water and the energy rushing down the stream bed. This division by sub-watersheds allows projects to be completed within a given space, having an immediate effect and benefit to water quality downstream. 

Agricultural practices within the watershed, along the stream beds and in the farm fields are the greatest influence on the quality of water coming down the larger channel. Adjusting practices to conserve soil and stop erosion while increasing rainwater infiltration brings a benefit both to the farmer and to the ecology. Communities downstream benefit from a reduction of floodwaters and damage to property. Villages along the entire watershed gain the benefit of consistent clean water that is stored in the uplands and slowly released after rain events.

La Valee de Jacmel - Haiti

Restoration of landscapes must go hand-in-hand with the communities of animals, plants, and people. To managed watershed which benefits everyone becomes a protected resource in cultural heritage. When people and sectors of the community are considered and benefit, the restoration efforts are more likely to be sustained and long-lasting. 

The initial restoration itself is quite expensive with many hours and days spent in planning and implementation for its renewal. The long-standing return will only come from community involvement on all levels of development. The Lavallee community watershed restoration is based on sectors of production for the different sectors of the population. High elevations are used to collect water to make sure that it infiltrates to the soil and the water table. This is called a water forest as although the forest products are also harvested, the forest is a priority to increase the carrying capacity of the land and the infiltration of rainfall. Streambeds become perennial rather than only running during extreme weather events. 

Legacy forest areas are for the use of elders in the community for their long-term income through harvesting a lifetime of agroforestry practices. The community forest is built for the benefit of everyone during times of disturbance. This forest, although harvested for fruits, nuts, and perennial crops, is primarily intended for harvesting fibres and timber for the building or repair of homes. Through well-managed and controlled harvesting the trees are coppiced and pollard in order to retain the strength and vitality of a long-term canopy. 

All these forests are intended to protect the soil, increase infiltration of rainwater, reduce flooding, and maintain a constant flow of freshwater downstream beds. Crop and production forests are intensely managed for high and long-term yields of intercropped annual plants along with perennial foods. Unlike the other forests, the land is valued for its gentle slopes and less tendency for erosion when disturbed. These slopes are the primary food source as a result of upland management.

Jensen Ranch - USA

In Southern, Texas ranches have extremes of dry heat and downpours of rain. The combination of compacted soils for cattle, overgrazing, and insufficient rotation causes the soil to harden. Water runs off instead of infiltrating the soil. Erosion tears through the bare soil as the water is focused in ravines. This eroded soil collects and chokes the ponds used for cattle water. It’s important that the soil stay permeable and the ponds stay clear. Animal management and land management need to meet for the optimized and long-term health of the ranch. Strategies for better animal and soil health included:

  • Shoreline stabilization of the ponds and ravines with fibrous-rooted plants

  • Excluding cattle from the ponds and waterways to increase clarity and recuse animal stress from contaminated water. This alone can increase weight gain by 10%.

  • Deep subsoiling on contour to increase available water in the soil for grasses.

  • Diversion swales for extreme weather events, diverting and delaying water for better infiltration.

  • Use of cattle exclusion fencing for the restoration of the degraded pasture areas

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