Mumbai: Water scarcity is a stark reality, and one that is expected to get worse. As a step to address the water problem, Hindustan Unilever Foundation, the non-profit arm of India’s largest packaged consumer products maker, on Thursday said it will spend Rs.100 crore to conserve and create potential for generating 500 billion litres of water by the end of the decade.
As part of the corporate social responsibility mandate of Hindustan Unilever Ltd (HUL), the foundation implements water conservation measures in villages by building check dams, ring bunds, ponds and through maintenance activities like de-silting of existing structures and helping farmers adopt better agricultural practices.
The foundation, set up in 2010, has already created such structures to conserve 100 billion litres across 6000 villages in 13 states in India. To reach the 500 billion litre target, the foundation plans to scale up existing projects and launch new projects.
“All our projects are based on a partnership model where the implementation of the projects is through co-funding with other partners. We are looking at a multiplier effect and therefore the full investment on these projects will almost be three times the investment made by HUL thus giving a much higher leverage and impact,” said Sanjiv Mehta, chief executive officer and managing director of HUL.
He added that Rs.300 crore will be mobilized in this time period through HUL’s partners like the International Finance Corporation, BAIF Development Research Foundation and DHAN Foundation.
The foundation has collaborated with sugar manufacturers like DSCL Sugar and Olam Agro India Ltd as sugarcane is a high-water requiring crop. “We plan to bring down water consumption by 15 to 25% in five years in districts in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh and Maharashtra where sugarcane is cultivated,” said Ravi Puranik, CEO, Hindustan Unilever Foundation.
Here, IFC will work along with HUL to help driving water sustainability in the sugar industry.“Water is very critical for our business. That’s why we’ve taken up this initiative. As a company, we are bringing our management skills to deliver more bang for the buck and make a difference to the (water scarcity) context,” said Mehta.
India, China, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan alone account for nearly half the world’s total groundwater use, according to a 2015 United Nations World Water Development Report. Rapid urbanization, increased industrialization, and improving living standards have increased the demand for water. “The water demand increase in Brics will be sevenfold, while in developing countries it will come close to increasing by 400%,” said the report. The ministry of water resources, through its National Water Mission, aims to improve the efficiency of water use at least by 20% by 2017.
“It is a huge scale they are creating. It has to be properly managed and sustainable. These are scientifically proven measures for conserving water. Besides creating structures and technical interventions, mobilising communities will also be crucial to success,” said Ronak Shah, water and sanitation expert, and CEO of Udaipur Urja Initiatives.