Sunken streambed structure [India]


technologies_1471 - India

Completeness: 73%

1. General information

1.2 Contact details of resource persons and institutions involved in the assessment and documentation of the Technology

Key resource person(s)

SLM specialist:
{'additional_translations': {}, 'value': 'Nayak Trilochan', 'user_id': '602', 'unknown_user': False, 'template': 'raw'}
SLM specialist:

Agrawal VK

Comprehensive Watershed Development Project


SLM specialist:
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{'additional_translations': {}, 'value': 17, 'label': 'Name of project which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)', 'text': 'Book project: where the land is greener - Case Studies and Analysis of Soil and Water Conservation Initiatives Worldwide (where the land is greener)', 'template': 'raw'} {'additional_translations': {}, 'value': 17, 'label': 'Name of project which facilitated the documentation/ evaluation of the Technology (if relevant)', 'text': 'Book project: where the land is greener - Case Studies and Analysis of Soil and Water Conservation Initiatives Worldwide (where the land is greener)', 'template': 'raw'}

1.3 Conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT

The compiler and key resource person(s) accept the conditions regarding the use of data documented through WOCAT:


1.5 Reference to Questionnaire(s) on SLM Approaches (documented using WOCAT)

Comprehensive watershed development

Comprehensive watershed development [India]

Participatory approach that includes a package of measures leading to empowerment of communities to implement and sustain watershed development.

  • Compiler: David Gandhi

2. Description of the SLM Technology

2.1 Short description of the Technology

Definition of the Technology:

Excavations in streambeds to provide temporary storage of runoff, increasing water yields from shallow wells for supplementary irrigation.

2.2 Detailed description of the Technology


Dohs are rectangular excavations in seasonal streambeds, which are intended to capture and hold runoff to enhance groundwater recharge, thus increasing water for irrigation from nearby shallow wells. They also collect and impound subsurface flow. Dohs are built in semi-arid areas where rainfall is low and seasonal. The dimension of a typical doh is 1.0-1.5 m deep with variable length (up to 40 m) and width (up to 10 m) depending on streambed section, with an average capacity of 400 m3.

Purpose of the Technology: The excavated material is deposited along the stream banks as a barrier against siltation from surrounding areas. The slopes of the excavation are gentle (an upstream slope of 1:6 or 17% and a downstream slope of 1:8 or 12%) so that water flows into it, and excess water out again, carrying silt rather than depositing it. The sides however are steep, to increase capacity - and would benefit from stone pitching to stabilise them. A silt trap comprising a line of loose boulders is constructed upstream across the streambed. Dohs are generally built in sequence. They may be as close as a few metres apart. Bends in the stream are avoided as these are susceptible to bank erosion.

Establishment / maintenance activities and inputs: The technology is used in conjunction with shallow wells (odees), which enable farmers to harvest the increased groundwater for supplementary irrigation of annual crops- including vegetables such as chilli peppers. Water is pumped out of the wells. In the case study village, Mohanpada, each doh basically supplies an underground source of extra water to one well. Communities together with project staff carry out site selection, and then detailed design/estimates/layout is done with project technical assistance. As a supportive measure the catchment area is treated with gully plugs (small stone checks in gullies). A water harvesting tank (small reservoir or dam) may be excavated above the series of dohs where this is justified by a sufficiently large catchment area/suitable site. The capacity of the tank at Mohanpada is around 600 m3 and thus also has a positive impact on groundwater recharge.

Natural / human environment: Maintenance is agreed through meetings of user groups: manual desilting is planned and repairs of gully plugs also. In summary, dohs are low cost water recharge alternatives for poorer communities, and in this case study, the extra area brought under production has meant that all families that require it, now have access to some water for irrigation.

2.3 Photos of the Technology

2.5 Country/ region/ locations where the Technology has been applied and which are covered by this assessment



Region/ State/ Province:

Madhya Pradesh

Further specification of location:

Ratlam, Mohanpada


Total area covered by the SLM Technology is 0.1 km2.

The project area for phase 1 comprises 18 villages (3314 Households) mainly tribal. A significant portion of the area is barren and used for open grazing. The sunken wter harvesting technology was initially demonstrated in few villages as an alternative to the high cost heading type approach to water harvesting bieng implemented on a large scale by main line programmes.

2.6 Date of implementation

If precise year is not known, indicate approximate date:
  • more than 50 years ago (traditional)

2.7 Introduction of the Technology

Specify how the Technology was introduced:
  • through projects/ external interventions
Comments (type of project, etc.):

The technology which is a modification of the traditional 'DOH' observed in river beds was implemented on an experimental basis in village Ambaohondan Tehsil 0 Mau, Dist. Indore under NWDPRA by Mr. V.K.Agrawal & Mr.V.V.Karmarkar.

3. Classification of the SLM Technology

3.1 Main purpose(s) of the Technology

  • improve production

3.2 Current land use type(s) where the Technology is applied

Land use mixed within the same land unit:


Specify mixed land use (crops/ grazing/ trees):
  • Agro-pastoralism (incl. integrated crop-livestock)



  • Annual cropping
Annual cropping - Specify crops:
  • fibre crops - cotton
  • legumes and pulses - peas
  • vegetables - other
  • wheat, chili peppers
Number of growing seasons per year:
  • 2

Longest growing period in days: 120 Longest growing period from month to month: Jul - Oct

Grazing land

Grazing land

  • Extensive grazing

Major land use problems (compiler’s opinion): There are regular poor yields of agricultural crops on the degraded, rainfed fields. A further constraint is the limited amount of water in wells, restricting both the extent of irrigation, and the number of people with access to irrigation. There is an underlying problem of poverty, which in turn leads to seasonal out-migration to find work.

Major land use problems (land users’ perception): Agricultural lands: sloping fields, soil loss, poor yields. Common lands:competition from surrounding villages for grazing resulting in low yields. Private pastures (bir): small patches which are not sufficient to meet the fodder needs. Settlement area: 28 huts already erected. Additional space not available.

Other grazingland: extensive grazing: on patches of waste lands within fields

Type of cropping system and major crops comments: During monsoon (kharif) season the main crop is cotton + maize. In addition minor pulses are taken. If water is available for irrigation, this is followed by wheat+gram in winter. Major area is fallow in winter except for the cotton crop which is of longer duration. No cultivation was observed in summer.

3.4 Water supply

Water supply for the land on which the Technology is applied:
  • rainfed

Water supply: Also mixed rainfed - irrigated

3.5 SLM group to which the Technology belongs

  • water harvesting
  • irrigation management (incl. water supply, drainage)
  • surface water management (spring, river, lakes, sea)

3.6 SLM measures comprising the Technology

structural measures

structural measures


Main measures: structural measures

3.7 Main types of land degradation addressed by the Technology

soil erosion by water

soil erosion by water

  • Wg: gully erosion/ gullying
water degradation

water degradation

  • Ha: aridification

Main type of degradation addressed: Wg: gully erosion / gullying, Ha: aridification

Main causes of degradation: other human induced causes (specify) (Social causes = Lack of awareness and mobilisation amongst the communities.), Top down approach (Macro planning rather than micro (village level) planning.)

3.8 Prevention, reduction, or restoration of land degradation

Specify the goal of the Technology with regard to land degradation:
  • reduce land degradation

4. Technical specifications, implementation activities, inputs, and costs

4.1 Technical drawing of the Technology

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Technical specifications (related to technical drawing):

Overview of sunken streambed structures (doh) with associated wells and irrigated plots. Note that several dohs are applied in series along the waterway.

Technical knowledge required for field staff / advisors: moderate

Technical knowledge required for land users: low

Main technical functions: increase of infiltration, water harvesting / increase water supply

Secondary technical functions: control of concentrated runoff: retain / trap

Structural measure: doh (sunken streambed structure)

Structural measure: dam, gully plugs (supp.)

Construction material (stone): used for silt trap on the upstream side

Construction material (other): weathered section is excavated manually, while hard rock beds may be excavated by machine, dynamite.


Mats Gurtner

4.2 General information regarding the calculation of inputs and costs

other/ national currency (specify):


If relevant, indicate exchange rate from USD to local currency (e.g. 1 USD = 79.9 Brazilian Real): 1 USD =:


Indicate average wage cost of hired labour per day:


4.3 Establishment activities

Activity Timing (season)
1. Site selection with community by eye Dry season
2. Identification of beneficiaries and user groups Dry season
3. Design & estimation by project staff Dry season
4. Agreement of village committee. Dry season
5. Treatment of catchment with gully plug Dry season
6. Excavation of Dohs (200–400 m3) as last action with silt traps upstreamof each made from loose stone. Dry season
7. Wells (odees) may be deepened and pumps bought Dry season

4.4 Costs and inputs needed for establishment

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Labour Labour ha 1.0 225.0 225.0 25.0
Equipment Tools ha 1.0 15.0 15.0 100.0
Total costs for establishment of the Technology 240.0
Total costs for establishment of the Technology in USD 4.91

Duration of establishment phase: 12 month(s)

4.5 Maintenance/ recurrent activities

Activity Timing/ frequency
1. Maintenance of catchment treatments (desilting of gully plugs etc) Dry Season/if required
2. Meeting of User Group Monsoon/After heavy Showars
3. Repairs to Silt-trap During monsoon/After heavy shower
4. Desilting of DOH Dry Season/annual

4.6 Costs and inputs needed for maintenance/ recurrent activities (per year)

Specify input Unit Quantity Costs per Unit Total costs per input % of costs borne by land users
Labour Labour ha 1.0 5.0 5.0 100.0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology 5.0
Total costs for maintenance of the Technology in USD 0.1

The construction of one doh costs between US$ 200-400, depending on the size of the doh (approximately one cubic metre can be excavated per person day at a cost of one US dollar). On a per hectare basis the costs are very variable, since they are related to the extra area brought under irrigation. In this case study there are four dohs within a total village area of 50 ha. Ten of the 50 ha have been brought into irrigated production (extra to the 5 ha already irrigated) due to the four dohs and the ‘tank’ and the costs outlined above are spread over those 10 ha. In this case half of the costs are directly attributable to dohs (average capacity 400 m3 each), and half to catchment treatment where the water-harvesting tank (a reservoir of approximately 600 m3) is the main cost. Where there is underlying rock, mechanical drills and blasting by dynamite may be required, which increases the costs. That was not the case in this village. The cost of deepening/widening the five wells (odees) has not been included here: that is carried out by the villagers themselves. While the project normally pays around 85% of labour costs, here at Mohanpada village the project only needs to pay 75%, due to a high level of commitment by the villagers.

The total of 4 doh structure were constructed along a stream length of 451 m having gradient of 1.2%. Total storage capacity is 1646qm. It is observed that during past year (2002) the structures were completely filled & subsequently emptied (percolated) 5 times.

4.7 Most important factors affecting the costs

Describe the most determinate factors affecting the costs:

Presence of hard stata (bed rock) increases cost of excavation

5. Natural and human environment

5.1 Climate

Annual rainfall
  • < 250 mm
  • 251-500 mm
  • 501-750 mm
  • 751-1,000 mm
  • 1,001-1,500 mm
  • 1,501-2,000 mm
  • 2,001-3,000 mm
  • 3,001-4,000 mm
  • > 4,000 mm
Specify average annual rainfall (if known), in mm:


Specifications/ comments on rainfall:

However since past 4 years rainfall has been below average

Agro-climatic zone
  • semi-arid

Located on the tropic of cancer, characterised by hot dry summers (max 46 deg C) and cold dry winters. Monsoon (July-Sept) is characterised by high intensity showers followed by prolonged dry spells.

5.2 Topography

Slopes on average:
  • flat (0-2%)
  • gentle (3-5%)
  • moderate (6-10%)
  • rolling (11-15%)
  • hilly (16-30%)
  • steep (31-60%)
  • very steep (>60%)
  • plateau/plains
  • ridges
  • mountain slopes
  • hill slopes
  • footslopes
  • valley floors
Altitudinal zone:
  • 0-100 m a.s.l.
  • 101-500 m a.s.l.
  • 501-1,000 m a.s.l.
  • 1,001-1,500 m a.s.l.
  • 1,501-2,000 m a.s.l.
  • 2,001-2,500 m a.s.l.
  • 2,501-3,000 m a.s.l.
  • 3,001-4,000 m a.s.l.
  • > 4,000 m a.s.l.
Comments and further specifications on topography:

Slopes on average: Also gentle (ranked 2) and moderate (ranked 3)

5.3 Soils

Soil depth on average:
  • very shallow (0-20 cm)
  • shallow (21-50 cm)
  • moderately deep (51-80 cm)
  • deep (81-120 cm)
  • very deep (> 120 cm)
Soil texture (topsoil):
  • coarse/ light (sandy)
  • medium (loamy, silty)
Topsoil organic matter:
  • high (>3%)
  • medium (1-3%)
If available, attach full soil description or specify the available information, e.g. soil type, soil PH/ acidity, Cation Exchange Capacity, nitrogen, salinity etc.

Soil depth on average: Very shallow (ranked 1, eroded wastelands, fields on slopes) and shallow (ranked 2, fields in valley portion)
Soil texture: Medium (ranked 1, present in valley sections) and coarse/light (ranked 2, present along slopes)
Soil fertility: Low (ranked 1, fields along slopes,waste lands) and medium (ranked 2, fields in valley section)
Topsoil organic matter: High (ranked 1, fields along slopes, waste lands) and medium (ranked 2, fields in valley sections)
Soil drainage/infiltration: Medium
Soil water storage capacity: Low

5.6 Characteristics of land users applying the Technology

Market orientation of production system:
  • mixed (subsistence/ commercial)
Off-farm income:
  • 10-50% of all income
Relative level of wealth:
  • very poor
  • poor
Level of mechanization:
  • manual work
  • animal traction
Indicate other relevant characteristics of the land users:

Population density: > 500 persons/km2
Annual population growth: > 4%
1% of the land users are average wealthy (One family has bore-well).
19% of the land users are poor (Few farmers have access to shallow wells.).
80% of the land users are poor (Majority are small/marginal farmers without access to irrigation).
Off-farm income specification: some migratory work in nearby towns and in large scale mechanised farms during peak periods (note: now there is less migration as a result of increased irrigation)

5.7 Average area of land used by land users applying the Technology

  • < 0.5 ha
  • 0.5-1 ha
  • 1-2 ha
  • 2-5 ha
  • 5-15 ha
  • 15-50 ha
  • 50-100 ha
  • 100-500 ha
  • 500-1,000 ha
  • 1,000-10,000 ha
  • > 10,000 ha

5.8 Land ownership, land use rights, and water use rights

Land ownership:
  • communal/ village
  • individual, titled
Land use rights:
  • open access (unorganized)
  • individual

6. Impacts and concluding statements

6.1 On-site impacts the Technology has shown

Socio-economic impacts


crop production

Income and costs

farm income


economic disparities

Comments/ specify:

Increased economic inequity in some villages, between those with wells and those without

Socio-cultural impacts

community institutions


SLM/ land degradation knowledge


conflict mitigation

Comments/ specify:

Increased economic inequity in some villages, between those with wells and those without

Ecological impacts

Water cycle/ runoff

groundwater table/ aquifer


soil moisture


soil cover

Comments/ specify:

Where cultivated

soil loss

Comments/ specify:

In catchment

6.2 Off-site impacts the Technology has shown

reliable and stable stream flows in dry season


downstream flooding


downstream siltation


groundwater/ river pollution


Amount of water to downstream users


6.4 Cost-benefit analysis

How do the benefits compare with the establishment costs (from land users’ perspective)?
Short-term returns:


Long-term returns:

very positive

How do the benefits compare with the maintenance/ recurrent costs (from land users' perspective)?
Short-term returns:


Long-term returns:

very positive

6.5 Adoption of the Technology


100% of land user families have adopted the Technology with external material support

1600 land user families have adopted the Technology with external material support

Comments on acceptance with external material support: estimates

There is a little trend towards spontaneous adoption of the Technology

Comments on adoption trend: Farmers in Mohanpada have constructed one doh with only 10 % subsidy on the total cost.
Spontaneous adoption is growing in neighbouring villages.

6.7 Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities of the Technology

Strengths/ advantages/ opportunities in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view
Dohs are a low cost alternative method of increasing groundwater in a semi-arid area where production of high value legumes depends on irrigation
– and dohs represent the best way in this situation of expanding the extent of irrigated land, and bringing irrigation to more families.
Small, multiple recharge points for replenishing groundwater for irrigation
from wells

How can they be sustained / enhanced? Breaking hard pan in stream bed mechanically by drills or blasting to deepen dohs and thereby make them more effective.
No risk of breaches of bunds as the structures are sunken below ground.

6.8 Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks of the Technology and ways of overcoming them

Weaknesses/ disadvantages/ risks in the compiler’s or other key resource person’s view How can they be overcome?
Group maintenance is required Form user groups.
Villagers are more used to (and may prefer) larger and deeper ‘tanks’ Establish more dohs to create more impact.
Dohs are limited in capacity and thus dry up quickly, as do the wells Establish more dohs to create more impact.

7. References and links

7.1 Methods/ sources of information

Links and modules

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