Mumbai – Corporate sector can play a big role towards water resource management and Ambuja Cements Ltd has been at the forefront of various water resource management programmes, Pearl Tiwari, director and chief executive officer (CEO) at Ambuja Cement Foundation (ACF) told Shivendra Kumar, assistant editor at India CSR Network. She said that the Foundation will continue to work with communities, governments and NGOs to promote the judicious use of water for industrial and domestic work.
ACF is a CSR arm of Ambuja Cements. It has flourished under the leadership of Tiwari since she took over the Foundation in 2000. It is now in 32 districts across 11 states with 600-strong development professionals.
What are the ongoing water management programmes being run by Ambuja Cement Foundation?
We are at the forefront of water conservation activities through community engagement and stakeholder approach, as part of the company’s sustainable development strategy. For instance, the water from the residential facilities in cement units is treated in the Sewage Treatment Plant (STP) and later used in the unit for cooling purposes, greenbelt development, fire hydrant water make-up and other miscellaneous uses.
We are reviving village ponds, building wells and rooftop rainwater harvesting and filtration systems and laying hand pumps to help households have access to clean drinking water.
As part of our water resource management initiatives, we are also capturing rain water via check dams and link canals, among others. We have also undertaken several water restoration projects.
Where is the Foundation conducting its programmes and how many people are benefiting from them?
Our water resource management programmes are being carried out in 2,073 villages in India, covering 2.5 million people. ACF has installed 8,705 rooftop rainwater harvesting structures in 200 villages. We have extended help in building 430 check dams, 673 pond renovations and 78 khadin and water tanks. Apart from this, a 72 km of interlinking canals have been built with 1,377 percolation wells.
What part of your CSR funds is being dedicated to the water management sector?
ACF has been spending between 21% and 24% of its CSR funds on water resource management programmes since the last two decades.
How is ACF sensitising people about water conservation?
ACF believes in educating people to use water judiciously and also sensitise them about its scarcity. We have been creating awareness on water-related issues on a sustained basis. The Foundation also periodically monitors water quality and educates communities to take remedial measures.
Also, ACF is mobilising resources to work together towards equitable distribution of water in collaboration with communities, governments and like-minded parties. The aim is to institutionalise operation and maintenance of each distribution system.
What are your views on the importance of partnerships and how does ACF raise funds to implement its projects?
We strongly believe in building partnerships with communities, NGOs, corporate and the state governments to implement our various initiatives. These partnerships allow project stakeholders to manage funds, technical expertise and other resources for capacity building opportunities. ACF believes that partnerships can scale-up the reach and impact of the programmes. They can also be helpful for companies with common CSR objectives.
We are working closely with organisations like National Bank for Agriculture and Rural Development (NABARD). The largest funding to us has come in Gujarat’s Ambujanagar – one of our key locations. We also work along with governments on various initiatives. We are regularly approached by corporate to collaborate with them, in-fact companies insist that we become implementing partners.
Does the Foundation assess the impact of its programmes?
We have an in-house research and monitoring team that oversees the implementation, progress and impact of our programmes. We have conducted project assessments including mid-course evaluation (A sanitation study was conducted to review the programme to declare open defecation free villages) and impact evaluation.
We have also conducted a Recognition of Prior Learning (RPL) and tried to research on the impact created for the work completed last year. We work alongside various consultants to evaluate some of our programmes by conducting baseline studies, Social Return On Investment (SROI) and develop reports.
We also organise a Social Engagement Scorecard (SES) process across locations approaching stakeholders to share their feedback on the project plan and impact during the specific period. The research we undertake helps us modify our programmes to best suit the need of our communities as well as measure outcomes and impacts. The initiatives have time and again shown a multiplier effect on the ground. ACF follows an evidence-based practice while planning and implementing development initiatives.
How can the private sector play a role towards management of water especially after the government’s move to form a Jal Shakti ministry?
As a company, Ambuja Cements is promoting optimum water consumption for industrial and domestic purposes. Infact, the company has become six times ‘water positive’ – perhaps the only entity in the industry to earn such a high water index. In that sense, our goals on water conservation are in line with what the government has set itself for.
A ‘net water positive’ company creates more water than it actually uses for its businesses. It makes good business sense for us and we thrive to raise the bar, every year. The motto for the company has been ‘reduce, reuse and recycle’ to minimise waste and we are doing this in all geographies.
Recharging groundwater and water bodies is the need of the hour which can be achieved only through collective effort.
Ambuja has employed ‘Within the fence’ and ‘Beyond the fence’ strategies to manage water resources. In the first case, we have reduced water consumption while recycling the used water to reduce wastage. Through water harvesting, we have also been able to conserve a lot of water, which is otherwise wasted.
Outside the company premises, through mobilisation of local communities we have harvested rain water. We have also been able to sensitise people on the use of water.