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  Social Responsibility

Published on: Feb. 13, 2020, 7:35 p.m.
Diageo provides safe and clean drinking water to villages in Maharashtra

By Business India Editorial

n 2018, Niti Aayog published a report on India’s impending water crisis. This is how the report began: “India is suffering from the worst water crisis in its history and millions of lives and livelihoods are under threat. Currently, 60 crore Indians face high to extreme water stress and about two lakh people die every year due to inadequate access to safe water. By 2030, the country’s water demand is projected to be twice the available supply, implying severe water scarcity for hundreds of millions of people and an eventual ~6 per cent loss in India’s GDP.”

To contribute to this cause, alcoholic beverage maker Diageo embarked on an innovative project in parts of Maharashtra that not only provides safe and clean drinking water to villagers, but also provides a means of livelihood to local women forming Self-Help Groups (SHGs).

At the invitation of the state government, the company decided to set up community water purification plants with chillers and water ATMs in 10 villages of Kamptee, Mauda and Nagpur talukas of Nagpur district. The company invested a total of Rs1.3 crore in this CSR initiative.

Once the water ATMs were set up, they were handed over the local gram panchayat with the condition that they would be operated and maintained by women’s SHGs from each village. These SHGs would run the water ATMs as a micro-enterprise. The contract with the equipment supplier also stipulated maintenance of the purification plants for a year and training of the SHG members in its normal upkeep.

The SHG issued water ATM cards to the households of the villages and water is being provided at the price of Rs5 for 20 litres. If the water is supplied for commercial functions or to users outside the village, then as per the SHGs agreement with the Gram Panchayat, the SHG is allowed to charge a higher rate.

In terms of quality, water from these ATMs is equal, if not better, than the best-packaged water brands in the market. This pure, chilled (crucial in a region where summertime temperatures soar to 45 degrees) water is available to the villagers at a cost of just 20 paise a litre, as opposed to the market rate of Rs10-15 per litre.

The response from the villagers has been positive. Sarita Bhoyar, a resident of Pipla says, “Earlier the water we were getting tasted and smelled strange. Since we had no choice, we were using contaminated water from taps for drinking and cooking and it was affecting our children’s health. We have been using the purified water from this water ATM for the last 14 months, and our children’s health has improved.” Ananta Yeole, a resident of Chirawa says, “These plants have reduced the problems faced by the villagers related to water. These machines are dispensing normal and chilled purified drinking water 24x7 at cheap rates.”

After the initial success of the programme in 10 villages, Diageo installed another 15 water ATMs in villages in poorer neighbourhoods in Mauda and Kamptee towns. The company has invested a total of Rs2 crore in this CSR initiative. All of these are also being managed by local women’s SHGs.

The initiative has benefitted over 44,000 people in these villages and colonies. The 25 SHGs have 272 women as members and the water ATMs have provided them with additional income, as well as the experience of managing a micro-enterprise. The company is hopeful that this experience will allow them to run other businesses in the future.

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