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Making way for water
The Hindu - 20 Dec 2012

Multi business conglomerate ITC Ltd has  taken the route of public private partnerships (PPP) with state governments and  NABARD in five states under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment  Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), Integrated Watershed Management Programme (IWMP) and  Integrated Watershed Development Programme (IWDP).

The PPP project plans to cover 1,00,000  hectares of watershed development in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Madhya  Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal by the end of this  fiscal.

ITC started watershed development as part  of its corporate social responsibility in 2007 and till date has signed 19 PPPs  with State governments and NABARD in five States covering 143,753 Ha under the  three schemes.

"Many of ITC's businesses are agri-based.  As a result, farming communities are integral to its value chains and their  productivity and competitiveness is inextricably linked to that of the company.  Responding to the challenges faced by these communities, ITC evolved its  Integrated Watershed Development programme with the conservation and management  of water and other natural resources and the creation of sustainable  livelihoods as its cornerstones," says Dr Ashesh Ambasta, Vice President and  head, social investments.

There is over 98,000 hectares of land under  soil and moisture conservation practices of ITC's IWDP in 25 districts  impacting 95,000 households, according to the company.

ITC also works with voluntary organisations  as implementation partners to mobilise villagers to form Water User Groups. The  company says that these groups are trained to carry out the entire spectrum of  activities from implementing soil and moisture conservation measures to  building, reviving and maintaining water-harvesting structures to reverse land  degradation and extend critical irrigation and raise agricultural productivity.

According to the company, "by the close of  the financial year 2011-12 there were 756 functioning Water User Groups, which  had a cumulative maintenance fund of Rs. 47.57 lakh. Civil work on structures  generated 2.6 million person-days of employment, particularly benefiting the  landless."

The majority of the watershed projects are  located in areas where ITC's e-Choupal operates and it has its agri-  businesses. These watershed development projects enable the company to maintain  its water positive status. The total rainwater harvesting potential so far  created by the company is twice the net water consumption by its operations, it  claims.