Water, undoubtedly, is one of most consumed natural resources. The United Nations estimates that water usage has been growing at more than twice the rate of population increase in the last century. India’s swelling population, along with its multiplying requirement, has led to a stark decline in the per capita availability of fresh water from 3,000 cubic metres to 1,123 cubic metres over the past five decades. This is well below the global average of 6,000 cubic metres. According to the 2015 United Nations World Water Development Report, ‘Water for a Sustainable World’ around 748 million Indians do have access to improved drinking water source. Agriculture, by its very nature, demands a healthy supply of water. In India, three fourth of the water usage is attributed to agriculture. Unfortunately, it is also the most inefficiently used resource. 

To add to this, climate change has resulted in an increased variation in rainfall and rising temperatures, leading to greater evaporation and transpiration by vegetation. Collectively, all of this makes water conservation a serious concern. To negate the inequity in availability of water, it is imperative that as a country we make a conscious effort to use this resource judiciously. The National Water Policy calls for an integrated approach to water management and rightly so. This approach is crucial for poverty reduction, environmental sustenance and sustainable economic development. 

As a nation, we also need to optimise our efforts on waste water treatment, recharging of aquifers and enhancement of storage facilities for sustainable water conservation. Expanding the use of desalination units, increasing the use of recycled water and decentralising water infrastructure are all critical for us to be able to meet our needs. One of the most prominent techniques to conserve water is to promote renewable energies by granting subsidies on the wind and solar equipment. Traditionally, thermal power plants consume humungous quantity of water for power generation. In Cyprus, for instance, subsidies have led to transformation of farmers’ attitude towards irrigation techniques. 

At Coca-Cola India, water finds an important place towards its sustainability approach. Through The Coca-Cola India Foundation - Anandana - several initiatives are planned and successfully executed to replenish water sources that make water available across different parts of the country. One such landmark initiative is the watershed project in Dungarpur, Rajasthan. Dungarpur has been identified as one of the most backward district in terms of development by the Planning Commission of India. Anandana, in collaboration with the Jan Shiksha Evam Vikas Sansthan (PEDO), identified 10 villages of Simalwara block of Dungarpur district for an integrated watershed development project. 

So far nine check dams and five farm ponds have been constructed along with refurbishing of four old ponds to create a storage capacity of 87,340 m of water. The project spread across 2850 hectares has directly or indirectly benefitted over 9,000 people in 11 villages. In Jhansi, Uttar Pradesh, Anandana has partnered with International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), watershed committees and villagers to develop nearly 40,000 metric cube of storage capacity watershed areas by constructing 8 water harvesting structures. 

Similarly, the Jaldhara project in Haryana encourages proper disposal of waste water that helps in improving overall sanitation and hygiene conditions in the villages, leading to better health. Some of the interventions are aimed at aimed at minimising leakage in the public water supply system that will eventually improve the access, coverage and equitable distribution of household water. Public private partnerships are increasingly gaining credence as governments work alongside corporations, NGOs, and social institutions to tackle some of the most critical problems that affect communities as a whole. Working together on restoration of water bodies, waste water management, and water replenishment will help in creating a sustainable approach that could address the nation’s water problem. 

Mr. Yogesh Chandra is the CEO of the Coca-Cola India Foundation.