Some parts of rural India are facing shortage of water, key to development. Thus, it has forced the corporate houses to customise their corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities. Some of them are now focusing on water conservation initiatives. Mohd Mustaquim reports
Water, being the core of human lives has pulled attention of corporate sector in the recent years. The provision of making of 2 per cent mandatory expenditure on social welfare by companies with net worth of Rs 500 crore or a turnover of Rs 1,000 crore or a net profit of Rs 5 crore under section 135 of Indian Companies Act 2013 has played key role in putting focus on social programmes by business houses.
It has been a matter of debate and social activists have been demanding to increase the 2 per cent mandatory expenditure on corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities. However, within the mandatory provision, in some pockets of the country, there have been changes and upliftment in the society. In some sectors, the corporate houses have joined hand for the effective implementation of the schemes in the remote rural areas.
As water is the most required natural resource in the Thar Desert of Rajashtan, Ambuja Cement through its CSR activities has been working on water sustainability through community action; rain water harvesting, traditional methods of water conservation and educating rural communities.
The cement company claims to have created over 4,500 roof rain water harvesting structures (RRWHS), 274 check-dams and micro irrigation systems in more than 8,000 acre farm landholding. They further claims that it is working on reviving of traditional water management resources like ponds, and have also converted mined-out pits to serve as water reservoirs.
Highlighting its CSR initiatives, Ajay Kapur, managing director & CEO, Ambuja Cements says, “Water has changed the landscape in the surrounding region of our Rabriyawas plant, located in middle of the desert in Rajasthan. We work with the rural communities surrounding Ambuja’s manufacturing sites and collaborate with the State governments, local NGOs and academic institutions to implement various state specific water conservation programmes.”
The company has extended its water resource project to cover vegetable farming, seed procurement and cultivation training through sustainable practices. Igniting a sense of ownership within the community, Ambuja Cement Foundation, the companies CSR arm has created local institutions (Pani Samitis) to monitor and maintain village-based water conservation structures.
Similarly, Safe Water Network (SWN) and Honeywell India launched its 25th iJal safe water station in Telangana to mark World Water Day on March 22, 2016. The joint initiative is already operating 25 water stations, located at Karimnagar, Adilabad, Warangal, Khammam and Nalgonda districts in the State and serve around 94,000 people in areas that lack safe drinking water.
The initiative addresses a critical need in the region that suffers groundwater contamination from high levels of fluoride. Water and sanitation-related illnesses account for 70-80 per cent of diseases in the area. During the three-month dry season beginning from March every year, water scarcity and drought are common, many women walk more than an hour each day to find water that is still be considered unsafe.
“Honeywell is committed to create solutions for sustainability challenges facing communities across the globe. That is why we are partnering with Safe Water Network. Honeywell has a state-of-the-art, global technology development center, spread over a 10-acre campus in Hyderabad,” says Anant Maheshwari, president, Honeywell India.
Honeywell employs approximately 900 local engineers, among them volunteers who participate in the Honeywell-Safe Water Network programme to raise awareness about safe drinking water in the region.
The Safe Water Network (SWN) model has been successful as its water systems are owned, operated, and maintained by local communities. Within 24 months of operation, 90 percent of stations are independent of ongoing subsidies for continued operations, technical support and maintenance. SWN works with supporters like Honeywell to demonstrate the impact can be achieved on a cost-effective and sustainable basis.
“Safe Water Network applies a business-like approach to a social problem, developing locally-owned water businesses for those beyond the reach of large infrastructure projects, and providing affordable safe drinking water to those most in need,” says Ravi Sewak, country director, Safe Water Network.
Safe Water Network claims to have created the iJal brand, which is recognised by the communities for reliable and affordable safe water. To date, Safe Water Network India has commissioned 125 iJal water stations in Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, and Maharashtra.
Save Water Campaign
Similarly, with an objective to propagate water conservation, one of India’s leading agrochemicals company, Dhanuka Agritech has been running campaigns for educating and spreading awareness on water conservation through its flagship campaign ’Khet ka pani khet mein aur gaon ka pani gaon mein’ (Field water in the field and village in the village). An extension of this campaign is a 60 second film, featuring Amitabh Bachchan depicts the dependency on rains and the associated happiness and prosperity stating ’Insaan paani bana toh nahi sakta par bacha zaroor sakkta hai (Humans cannot make water, but save water).”
Underlining the water conservation initiatives, RG Agarwal, chairman, Dhanuka Agritech says “Over the decades, Dhanuka Agritech has always been at the forefront to bring out progressive change in the lives of Indian farming community through dedicated knowledge-driven and development-related activities. Our aim has always been to work for the farmers’ prosperity and our initiatives for water are an added step in this direction.”
“Water is a limited natural resource and I would urge everyone to carry the message of water conservation to the entire country,” Agarwal added.
The company has funded constructing check-dams in the villages Mainpura ki Dhani and Sankotra in Jaipur district; Jugalpura village in Neem Ka Thana district; Devipura and Srimadhopur villages in Sikar district of Rajasthan.
Like these initiatives, the corporate houses who exploit natural and social resources, must come forward for the sustainable development of the community, customised as per the local needs. Education, healthcare services, water, sanitation, connectivity, employment are the key challenges being faced by the people in rural India. The successive governments have been working to bring changes on the ground. However, increasing population and deteriorating natural resources are continuously up-scaling the challenges. Thus, the corporate sector needs to address these challenges as much as possible. For effective implementation of social sector programmes of Central and State governments, keeping aside their profit, they need to share their expertise and provide helping hand.