ITC strengthens 360-degree water stewardship interventions

ITC Limited, one of Indias leading multi-business conglomerates, has forged as many as 50 Public-Private Partnerships (PPPs) with the government and other institutions as part of its integrated and holistic initiatives to achieve water security and rural empowerment across India.

ITC’s 360-degree water stewardship programme is in alignment with the government’s key water initiatives including ‘Jal Shakti Abhiiyan’. ‘Atal Bhujal Yojana’ and ‘More Crop Per Drop’.

Driven by the Sustainability 2.0 goals articulated by ITC Chairman Sanjiv Puri is scaling up its interventions in replenishing water resources and water usage efficiency. It has also embarked on a programme to achieve water positive status at river basin level with focus on 4 basins across the country. The Ghod river basin has already turned water positive last year.

The company has also partnered the Government in creating large-scale awareness on the need for equitable water management by participating in the ongoing India Water Week 2022. In recognition of its efforts in ensuring water security for all stakeholders, ITC also received the 1st prize in the ‘Best Industry for CSR Activities’ category at the third National Water Awards by Ministry of Jal Shakti, Government of India in 2021-22.

Over 54 per cent of India is water stressed. Agriculture which forms the lifeline of the Indian economy is vulnerable to the threat of climate change. Recognising the critical need to address this challenge, ITC has taken a three-fold approach to drive water security for its stakeholders and contribute to achieving the national goal of securing a sustainable water future for India.

The three-pronged approach that cognises the varied climatic zones and rain patterns in the country involves 1) a large-scale community based integrated watershed development initiative covering catchment treatment, water harvesting structures development, and groundwater recharge spread over 13 lakh acres in 16 states with over 25,000 water harvesting structures built and another 1.33 lakh acres acres under biodiversity conservation; 2) a unique demand side water management programme that focuses on improving water use efficiency of agriculture with the demonstrated achievement of water savings in the range of 20-45% across select crops and a total savings potential of 496 million cubic metres during 2021-22; 3) maximizing water efficiency across all its operations.

Owing to its 360-degree water stewardship initiatives, ITC has earned the distinction of being the only global company of comparable dimensions to be water positive for over two decades.

ITCs Paperboards & Specialty Papers unit at Kovai is only the second facility in the world and the first in India to be awarded the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS)’s Platinum level certification — the highest recognition for water stewardship in the world.

Going forward, the company aspires to create rainwater harvesting potential equivalent to over five times the net water consumption by 2030 as a part of its S 2.0 targets. ITC is in the process of implementing the AWS Standards at its units in high water stress areas and will progressively obtain AWS certification for these sites in by 2035.

Providing equal focus on achieving water efficiency within the fence, all ITC units are mandated to implement action plans to work towards reducing net water consumption, maximising rainwater harvesting and achieving zero effluent discharge through technology upgradation, advanced processes, stringent audits and international benchmarking.

Commenting on the Company’s integrated water stewardship programmes, S. Sivakumar, Group Head, Sustainability, Agri and IT Business, ITC Ltd, said: “Inspired by our credo of “Nation First, Sab Saath Badhein”, ITC is committed to partnering with the Government in its journey to secure a sustainable and equitable water future for all. Having implemented a 360-degree water stewardship initiative with the help of community participation for over two decades, we have now embarked on a bolder water mission under our Sustainability 2.0 agenda that envisages scaling up our interventions manifold and setting ambitious targets both inside and outside the fence, whilst supporting large-scale sustainable livelihoods. I would also like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Government for organising the India Water Week 2022, which will go a long way in creating larger awareness and engendering action on the critical need for water sustainability.”

ITC’s Watershed Development Interventions has resulted in upto 40 per cent improvement in Groundwater Table project areas. ITC supports small and marginal farmers to form Water User Groups (WUGs) in which women also participate actively, thereby ensuring community-based participatory ownership and management of local water resources. Leveraging schemes like MNREGA, over 25,000 water harvesting structures has been built including 3,000 well recharge units, thus creating over 45.2 MCUM water storage capacity.

ITC has synergised traditional knowledge and methods of water conservation with modern techniques. Specific interventions in select project areas have focused on reviving local traditional water harvesting systems like Ahar-Pyne and Community Tanks. Farmer friendly technologies are piloted and promoted to intensify our efforts. One such technology is Talya tray, an Israeli Technology to capture rainfall efficiently, which has also shown upto to 48% higher yields.

As part of its water stewardship program, the company is also focusing on creating water positive status in river basin areas through sustained and holistic interventions and has achieved water positive status in the Ghod River Basin in a span of 5 years. Work is now underway in three other basins — Upper Bhawani River (sub-basin), Mureru River and Kolans River.

ITC has made strides in the demand-side of water management with a coverage of 728,000 acres across 11 states. The initiative has led to large water savings across crops in the range of 20-45 per cent with a total savings potential of 496 million cubic metres during 2021-22. To achieve large-scale outcomes, ITC promoted crop-specific precision agronomic practices and micro-irrigation leading to reduction in water consumption.

The programme involved slew of multi-dimensional initiatives that includes establishing Demonstration Plots, Farmer Field Schools and technical partnerships with reputed institutes including TNAU, Vasantdada Sugar Institute, IWMI, WWF, among others. The Company’s Climate Smart Agriculture programme, which has water management as a key element, today covers over 15 lakh acres, benefitting over 4.5 lakh farmers.

ITC has been a pioneer in water management in its own operations. ITC’s Paperboards and Specialty Papers unit in Kovai was the 2nd facility in the world and first in India to be awarded the Alliance for Water Stewardship (AWS) Platinum level certification in FY 2019-20 — the highest recognition for water stewardship in the world. The company has now set a goal to achieve 40 per cent reduction in specific water consumption by 2030 as compared to the FY 2018-19 baseline. Another goal is to certify of all sites in high water stressed areas as per the international water stewardship standard by AWS by 2035.

20221103-155006

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