Water is the elixir of life. Despite its prime importance in human life, industrialization has caused massive harm to various water bodies across India. Nevertheless, raising awareness about the need to conserve water has paved the way for innovative ways to save water. The corporate sector in India is doing its part by funding various aid water conservation activities through CSR initiatives to ensure a healthy supply of good quality water to various social classes.
Under the aegis of Corporate Social Responsibility, private companies have undertaken diverse initiatives in collaboration with various NGOs and the government to provide means of conserving water and fulfilling daily requirements, particularly in rural areas.
Corporate CSR Initiatives to Conserve Water Across India
Let’s take a look at some of the CSR initiatives to conserve water undertaken by Indian corporate companies to ensure water security across India:
Hindustan Unilever, a leading FMCG company, established the Hindustan Unilever Foundation (HUF) in 2010. The foundation focuses on various programs and awareness drives that encourage water conservation, community-based governance of water resources, and efficient use of water in agriculture.
HUF’s Water For Public Good initiative was initiated in collaboration with the Maharashtra Institute of Technology Transfer for Rural Areas in Nashik, which stressed on a diversion-based irrigation system. This scheme systematically diverts water from streams and rivers to irrigate agricultural farms. The scheme has been deemed a success and the company claims that:
- About 450 billion liters conserved through improved demand-supply management
- 650,000 tons of additional crop yield and biomass generated
- Around 50 million employment-days created through enhanced water conservation and agricultural production
- Now, Water For Public Good has been implemented in 53 villages across the country.
ITC, one of the largest Indian companies involved in food processing, has been promoting large-scale integrated watershed management activities since 2002. By the end of FY2020, the company has cumulatively covered around 1.2 million acres of water-stressed areas through its soil and moisture conservation programs. It has also launched a pilot project on water conservation efficiency in agriculture to enable effective demand management.
ITC’s Watershed Development Programme mobilizes farmers to form water user groups and assists them to carry out interventions such as building micro rainwater harvesting structures. This scheme has helped in raising crop yields like sugarcane, wheat, rice, etc, by about 20% to 45%. ITC claims that this technique has strengthened water availability in 16 states, by emphasizing rainwater harvesting and recycling to meet requirements. The amount of water it conserves has crossed more than twice its annual water consumption.
Parivartan Yojana is the CSR initiative of a leading bank, HDFC Bank, whose main objective has been to provide feasible and innovative means of conserving water. It has funded the construction of ground-water recharge structures in 31 villages across Jalgaon District of Maharashtra. These structures are meant to collect rainwater, so as to tide over extreme drought conditions.
In addition, HDFC has also provided funds for the construction of rainwater harvesting structures to prevent soil erosion, in 8 villages of the Chhindwara district of Madhya Pradesh. A ridge-to-valley approach has been adopted and resulted in the construction of many trenches, stone bunds, farm bunds, and more. It has aided the irrigation treatment of approximately 40 hectares of land so far. Further, HDFC Bank’s Parivartan Yojana has transformed the lives of around 12.3 million individuals in 16 districts of Uttar Pradesh by providing solar street lights, stone bunding at farms, low-cost vermicompost units, Gabian structure for check dams, and irrigation through sprinkle system.
Reliance Foundation, the CSR division of Reliance Industries, has undertaken numerous programs to enhance water conservation through its ‘Bharat India Jodo’ flagship program. This program follows a watershed-approach and adopts local water conservation methods, across 12 states. Having built more than 11,000 water harvesting structures, the focus is on spreading awareness on judicious use of water among villagers in about 3,900 villages across India.
These structures can cumulatively hold up to 85 billion liters of rainwater and serve as a source for irrigation. Reliance Foundation also educates farmers regarding the implementation of soil and moisture protection, conservation strategies, to facilitate mitigation of situations of drought and water scarcity. So far, it has succeeded in bringing 38,500 hectares of land under assured irrigation.
Jamnalal Bajaj Foundation, the CSR trust of leading automotive company Bajaj Group addresses the needs of communities in the areas of health, education, environment, infrastructure and community development. As part of the Bajaj Water Conservation Project, the foundation has taken up various initiatives such as the Yashoda River Rejuvenation Project and the Satyamev Jayate Water Cup.
Under the Yashoda River Rejuvenation Project, the Yashoda riverbed was deepened and widened to a length of 442km, covering 121 villages across rural Maharashtra. This initiative helped irrigate 110,633 acres of land through the direct lifting of water to riverbeds and wells. Due to this intervention, the crop yield improved drastically and the livelihood of 14,162 farmers was strengthened.
Paani Foundation is a non-profit organization founded by actor, Aamir Khan that is actively working on drought prevention and watershed management. Every year, it organizes the Satyamev Jayate Water Cup, in which participating villages have to complete the maximum work on watershed development within their habitats before the monsoon season begins. Bajaj Foundation rendered assistance worth INR24 crore for the Satyamev Jayate Water Cup in 2018, which covered 100 talukas from Vidharbha and Marathwada regions.
Deshpande Foundation, a CSR initiative of Dr. Gururaj Deshpande has worked towards creating a sustainable agricultural system in drought affected regions of Karnataka and Maharashtra. Frequent episodes of drought have had a devastating impact on agriculture in this region. To reduce the impacts of drought, Deshpande Foundation realised there is need for a sustainable agricultural system that uses water optimally and reduces expensive and harmful inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides.
Farm Pond is one such program initiated in 2013 by the Deshpande Foundation in association with Ratan Tata Trust. The Farm Pond program has triggered a grassroots‐level movement for sustainable agriculture. It helps farmers engage in sustainable agricultural practices involving rainwater conservation and harvesting. Having gained traction in the rain-fed areas of Dharwad district of Karnataka, the initiative has expanded to Siddipet and Nalgonda taluks of Telangana, harvesting hope in parched lands. So far, it has helped around 1,750 farmers by creating ponds for each of them and has irrigated 6,384 acres of land. Overall, the initiative has impacted nearly 9,000 lives.
The Dharampal Satyapal Group has started a number of projects based on the concept of Watershed Management. The focus is to promote water conservation with special emphasis on improving natural resources, primarily soil and moisture. The foremost initiative is the ‘Water Economic Zone’, an integrated system to enhance natural resources. The project focuses on lands that have low productivity and rain-fed farming, severe soil erosion, undulating topography, and land and forest degradation.
Under the Water Economic Zone scheme, multiple water conservation structures such as check dams, percolation tanks, earthen dams, continuous contour trenches, recharge pits, and the like, have been constructed since 2018. Besides, the DS Group has also funded the setting up of several water harvesting structures in Rajasthan, including a project in the Sikar district. The project claims to collect around 307,736 liters of water per monsoon.