KOLKATA: ITC has announced a rapid scale-up of its Integrated Watershed Development Programme. The programme has already brought soil and moisture conservation to half a million acres in the country. The Company targets to double the area to nearly 1 million acres by 2018.
As a result of the measures undertaken, both within its operations and through its Integrated Watershed Development programme beyond the fence, ITC has been a water positive company for the past 13 years. Exemplary water conservation initiatives implemented at its facilities have enabled the company to reduce its water intake progressively over years, despite a significant increase in its production volumes.
Dr Ashesh Ambasta, Vice President and Head, Social Investments, ITC Limited, said “India is grappling with a severe water-crisis and the problem will only get aggravated at the current rate of consumption. As a company which believes that businesses exist to sub-serve larger societal goals, ITC has taken water as a priority focus area. We are proud that our water initiative is now benefitting thousands of farmers in 9 states of the country”
“We are particularly proud that our programme stands out in its approach of formation of self-reliant, empowered community bodies which take ownership of building and managing water resources, thereby raising productivity and building rural economic capacity. We strongly believe that a rapid expansion of our watershed model is today a national need which will go a long way in accelerating rural India’s economic resurgence”, he added.
ITC’s Integrated Watershed Development Programme is part of the Company’s Rural development programme that aims at empowering rural communities and augmenting natural resources. As an environmental steward, it is ITC strategic objective to create a positive environmental footprint wherever possible – through both external programmes (Integrated Watershed Development, Improved Agriculture Practices, Social & Farm Forestry) and comprehensive measures across all its operating units.
What makes ITC’s water model unique is its focus on not only seeking to achieve water conservation and soil enrichment, but also improving village-based management of water and other natural resources by evolving a culture of optimum water usage, finally leading to maximising the benefits of water resources created by the watershed development projects to build a more vibrant farm portfolio.
Physical measures are only one aspect of a mosaic of solutions, the core objective being building sustainable livelihoods. ITC’s watershed development programme has till date generated over 4.7 million person days of work.
ITC’s Watershed Development Programme is an example of how public-private-people partnerships bring out the best resources residing in each segment and enable better success of the projects. It has built over 6,400 water harvesting structures and created more than 1,480 functioning Water User Groups. But what’s worth a special mention is that ITC’s Integrated Watershed Development Programme has brought half a million acres under soil & moisture conservation, benefiting over 1,60,000 households – a remarkable accomplishment for a private sector player.
ITC has also entered into PPPs with state governments and NABARD in five states targeting the coverage of nearly 400,000 acres by 2018. Nearly 50% of this target has already been achieved.
Since agriculture accounts for almost 90% of the total water consumption in India, ITC recognized the urgent need to address the crucial issue of water stress in rural agricultural communities.
The primary focus of the watershed initiative, thus, is to reverse land degradation, extend critical irrigation and raise agricultural productivity. To this end, it implements soil and moisture conservation measures and builds, revives and maintains water-harvesting structures.
This is done by setting up village-level institutional mechanisms and mobilizing community-based participation in not just the conservation and management of water, but also in its replenishment. Adopting a bottom-up, participatory approach with disadvantaged sections as the primary target, ITC works with NGOs as implementation partners to mobilize them and form Water User Groups.
These groups are then trained to carry out the entire spectrum of activities from planning to execution and maintenance of the water harvesting structures. Moreover, these Water User Groups are further trained to formulate regulations and fix water user charges, which go towards creating a fund used to maintain existing structures, build new ones and tap government schemes.
The model is highly replicable as traditional methods are used in conjunction with modern techniques to build location-specific, low-cost water-harvesting structures, relying on simple technology and locally available materials. What’s more is that because the programme relies on both community contribution, as well as on the creation of a maintenance fund.
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