by Toby Smith

Palampur is a small town of less than 15 000 people that lies at the feet of the Dhauladhar mountain range in Kangra District, Himachal Pradesh. The Dhauladhar mountains are covered in snow through the year; the melt from its glaciers and snow feeds numerous springs, streams and rivers that flow down to settlements like Palampur. The surrounding countryside has a system of still-maintained kuhl channels used for irrigation and farming. Palampur town and households obtains its water mainly from the Neugal River through a piped pumping system; the Neugal also has numerous hydro-power interventions along its length. The oldest source of water lies to the north of the town and comes from a spring named Bohal, located beneath a forest. Our research partners have been instrumental to the development of a protection regime for the upstream forest, as prior to 2010 increased forest extraction was suspected to be linked to declines in water flows to the settlement. In response, external NGO stakeholders played a pivotal role in establishing a negotiated contractual agreement between upstream land- and forest- users at Bohal, and the down-stream Municipal Council at Palampur, to safeguard spring flows into the future. Our work has documented and traced these efforts and their outcomes over the past seven years.