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  Social Responsibility

Published on: Aug. 1, 2020, 1:12 p.m.
A partnership furthers the adoption of watersheds in rainfed states
  • Water storage systems need to be created to ensure availability for farming

By Sekhar Seshan. Consulting Editor, Business India

A unique partnership between the West Bengal government and the Chennai-headquartered water treatment company WABAG is furthering the adoption of a watershed-based approach in the rain-fed areas of the state, especially Purulia district. The company has committed about Rs2.5 crore for the government’s Ushar Mukti programme, under which a comprehensive set of activities are being undertakento improve the villagers’ lot.

Besides the financial support, WABAG is also actively participating in the annual planning-cum-review workshops for further improvement in the implementation.

Involving planning, capacity building, monitoring and evaluation over a period of  four years of the programme. At least 70 per cent of the MGNREGA fund will be used for activities supporting soil, moisture and nutrients conservation for the regeneration and restoration of natural resources.

The objectives of the Ushar Mukti project, being implemented in partnership with the Bharat Rural Livelihoods Foundation (BRLF), an independent society under the rural development ministry to scale up such joint action by civil society and various governments, are six-fold:

-      Restoration of degraded land and soil enrichment;

-      In-situ water harvesting;

-      Conversion of agriculturally marginal lands to appropriate land use;

-      Reducing the impacts of climate variations and to make the communities climate-resilient;

-      Adoption of improved farm management practices (e.g. practice of water recycling, green manuring etc.);

Intensification and diversification of farming that would promote prosperity and enhanced human conditions.

The field-level teams of the civil society organisations supported by BRLF and WABAG are working in cadre building, capacity building of community and Panchayat Raj institutions, block officials and project staff, preparation of a detailed project report (DPR), livelihood interventions and documentation. The programme is now being implemented in six districts of West Bengal, covering 10,091 villages.

In Purulia district, where WABAG is concentrating its efforts, only 290,000 hectares of the total 625,276 hectares are being cultivated. Of this, only about 20 per cent is irrigated in the kharif season, while the remaining 80 per cent is rain-fed. This makes the entire district a priority area for soil and water conservation and water harvesting.

“Ushar Mukhti has extended our vision and given us an opportunity to consider treating the land not in isolation but in larger chunks having its own small universe, valley, water course, vegetation or the lack of it,” says Purulia district magistrate Alokesh Prasad Roy. “We have been re-oriented and rejuvenated thanks to the initiative where BRLF, together with WABAG and others, has forged a partnership with the state.”

Such participatory watershed development projects, WABAG managing director and group CEO Rajiv Mittal, points out, are sustainable in nature. “People capacity is built at all levels and the projects are implemented on the principle of by the people, for the people and of the people,” he says. They also create durable assets like soil and water conservation structures, horticulture and farm forestry plantations, and create livelihood activities.

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