New Policy Allows Cos to Help Irrigation through CSR

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NAGPUR: The state government has decided to improve water use efficiency in agriculture sector by asking companies to help through their CSR (corporate social responsibility) initiatives. “The CSR activities offer will include constructing passes for animals on canals going through wildlife sanctuaries”  said a senior water resources department (WRD) official.

Challenges in water sector are enormous and it is necessary to maintain the right equilibrium in order to achieve food security, increase living standards, maintain water quality, and to develop and conserve the precious ecosystem, says the new policy announced on April 10.

Companies having a net worth of more than Rs 500 crore, turnover of more than Rs 1,000 crore, or net profit of more than Rs 5 crore are required to spend 2% of average profit of previous three years on CSR activities. As a result of this, it is estimated that a minimum of 6,000 Indian companies will be required to undertake CSR projects and commitments worth about Rs 20,000 crore annually.

“The state government desires to develop partnership with companies and social organizations to address critical challenges in water sector that have a direct social and economic impact on people of the state as well as on environmental sustainability,” the official said.

The government will create a conducive environment for attracting CSR investments, corporate governance, and best management practices to address challenges in irrigation sector. Water saved through CSR initiatives will be used for ecological needs and ensuring ‘environmental sustainability’ and removal of large-scale disparity between water supply to rural and urban areas.

“Successful interventions will create a positive impact on socially and economically weaker groups of the PAPs and farmers and will also create an atmosphere of mutual respect among the various water user groups,” the official said.

“It is good that our work with the irrigation department could bring a provision for implementation of mitigation measures on existing canals going through wildlife habitats via CSR work,”  said Kishor Rithe, former member of National Board for Wildlife (NBWL). “We had pushed for wildlife mitigation measures for irrigation projects like Khindsi feeder in Ramtek and Alewahi and Ar-Kacheri near Melghat,” he added.

As per WRD data, the average water availability in the state is 1,62,820 million CuM (m CuM). Of this, 1,25,936m CuM is allotted for use to the state by various interstate water tribunals and agreements.

The geographical area of the state is 30.8 million hectare (m ha) with cultivable land of 22.5m ha. Of the latter, only 8.5m ha can be irrigated through surface. The state has constructed 82 major, 237 medium and 3,299 minor irrigation projects and impounded 46,890m CuM of water.

At present, about 4,850m CuM of water is reserved for domestic use and about 2,000m CuM is reserved for industrial use. The demand of water is expected to increase considerably for food and domestic needs of rising population as also industrial use. The requirement for non-irrigation usage is expected to be about 8,130m CuM by 2025.

What Can Companies Do: Construction of passes for wildlife over canals passing through sanctuaries, Promote participatory irrigation management, Create awareness among farmers about conservation and minimizing water use, Capacity building of farmers regarding water saving irrigation techniques, Shifting to less water-intensive crops, Extension, renovation and modernization (ERM) of age-old irrigation projects whose efficiency parameters have eroded, Lining of selective segments of canal reaches having excessive water losses and repairs to control structures of canals, Installing flow measuring devices, Sponsoring research activities in irrigated agriculture and Desilting of small water bodies.

(report first appeared with Times of India)

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