Recognising the vital role played by water and irrigation in the rural economy, ITC’s Soil & Moisture Conservation Programme supports watershed development projects in water-stressed areas, developing precious water resources for agriculture, rural communities and livestock. The focus is on building, reviving and maintaining water harvesting structures as well as implementing other measures which help to reverse land degradation, provide critical irrigation and increase agricultural productivity. Adopting a participatory approach, ITC works with NGOs to mobilise local communities to form water user groups. These groups are trained to carry out the entire spectrum of activities from planning to execution, including monitoring of work and future maintenance of structures. The groups are also trained to formulate regulations and fix water user charges which go towards creating a fund used to maintain existing structures and build new ones.
Initiated in 2001, the programme today covers 12 states across the country. The total watershed area covered under soil & moisture conservation is over 286,000 hectares, benefiting over 225,000 households. There are over 9,000 water harvesting structures and over 2,100 functioning Water User Groups. Civil work on structures generated over 5 million person-days of employment, particularly benefiting the landless. Projects under the programme have made a significant contribution in ITC maintaining its water positive footprint for 14 years in a row.
ITC has also entered into public-private-people partnerships with several state governments and NABARD, bringing together government and corporate resources to undertake watershed development projects with considerably greater scale and impact. Currently, these PPP projects are targeting to cover over 1,58,000 hectares in some of India’s most drought-prone regions.