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Company Feature
Published on: April 6, 2022, 2:24 p.m.
ICICI Foundation's water solutions
  • ICICI Foundation’s crop substitution initiative in Karnataka

By Business India Editorial

For over six decades, the ICICI group has been contributing to India’s economic growth and development. While promoting inclusive growth, the group has made differences to its customers through its products and services, as well as supporting development initiatives and community outreach. ICICI Foundation, the CSR arm of the ICICI group was set up in 2008 to enable inclusive growth. The Foundation has made a difference to over 600,000 lives. 

Working on the strategic pillar of ‘Shortage’ and ‘Environment’, the Foundation has implemented various interventions towards conservation and management of water. India, with its varied climatic conditions across regions, finds it difficult to have any one size fit all solutions for water scarcity. 

Moreover, the rate at which groundwater is depleting, studies suggest that India will soon run out of groundwater, posing a serious threat to water supply and food security. It also threatens to upend economic stability and public health. Hand in hand with the groundwater depletion and contamination, is a food supply ‘toxic time bomb’ of global implications. ICICI Foundation has been working on identifying the need gaps across areas of intervention by creating customised solutions.

ICICI Foundation has implemented Rainwater Harvesting Project in over 300 government schools across 54 districts in rural India – advancing on the traditional and cost-effective method of conserving water.

The region/block were adopted on the basis of water shortage; the ability of the premise to accommodate a catchment area; and its ability to educate generation next on best water practices.

This project resulted in making 50 million litres available through ground water recharge or reuse. During this fiscal year, the scale-up plan is to touch 1,000 schools.

 Water crisis

Dhanora, a village in Latur district of Marathwada region, has been facing frequent water crisis due to the uncertainty of rainfall, leading to an acute shortage of drinking water as well. The Foundation, along with the Gram Panchayat of Dhanora village, has implemented a plan, which revolved around revamping of the canal gates for retaining water from the Prerana river, which was previously getting washed away. This intervention led to getting 150 acres of land under irrigation, providing 386 households with drinking water and the recharging of 100 wells and 75 bore wells in the catchment area.

In Sarate Vadgaon village in Beed district, even the drinking water requirements were not being met. The river path leading to the check dam was shallow. ICICI Foundation, along with the Gram Panchayat of Sarate, implemented a river-deepening initiative through excavation and compacting. The intervention has led to additional water storage of 60 million litres, while the recharge will support 125 bore wells and 95 wells, providing 255 households with drinking water. Farmers with vegetable and horticulture plantation can now have a second crop in summer, along with 185 acres of land irrigated in the rabi season.

Kajala village, Osmanabad district, in Marathwada region has been facing water shortage over the years. To improve the levels of ground water, two approaches were adopted – first, to widen and deepen the dried-up lakes and nalas; and, the second, to create bunds in the farms to hold rain water during monsoon. This resulted in rising ground water levels and making the village self-sufficient with regards to water needs. The 29 million litres of rain water that was conserved is used for farming and domestic purpose.

Sugarcane has been making the farmers dependent on water, while fetching low prices. To upgrade the livelihood of the farmers, in Belagavi and Bagalkot districts of Karnataka, crop substitution and diversification was proposed. The farmers were convinced to move to a less water-consuming crop like turmeric, which earned better income, as compared to what was earned from sugarcane.

This intervention also helped in reducing water consumption – from 80 million litres to 800,000 litres. Farmers could grow another crop – beans, coriander, etc – along with turmeric during the year. In 2020, over 1,600 farmers benefitted from this intervention. 

Mayiladuthurai in Tamil Nadu has paddy as the dominant crop, which is water-intensive. There was a need to devise a technique that would sustain in situation of less availability of water. ICICI Foundation implemented ‘alternate wet & dry’ technique of irrigation to reduce water usage. The method involves intermittent or controlled irrigation, with the AWD period varying, based on rainfall, climatic condition and soil. The technique reduces water usage by 30 per cent without yield loss and is preferable for farmers under bore wells and dry lands. 

Also, a System of Rice Intensification (SRI) increased the yield of rice. It is a low-water, labour-intensive method that uses younger seedlings singly spaced and weeded with special tools. As much as 988 acres of SRI method of paddy cultivation was adapted by the farmers, saving up to 1.3 billion litres of water.

Ladakh receives less than 100 mm rainfall. The agricultural activity is only between March and October. Due to water scarcity, farmers are unable to carry out agricultural activity during spring. ICICI Foundation, in tandem with Er. Chewang Norphel (aka ‘Ice man of India’), built an artificial glacier, to freeze water during winter and melt it at the right time for the farmers for sowing.

This artificial glacier can hold about 55,741.82 cu m of snow. Since the artificial glacier is located at a lower altitude of 13,000 ft, as compared to the original glaciers located at 18,000 ft, it melts earlier, providing water to the villagers during April.

Such steps towards enabling sustainable livelihood stand testimony to the legacy at ICICI of identifying need gaps and addressing them with tailor-made solutions. 

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