Imagine travelling for five hours to fetch a mere 25 litres of water or watching your parched plantations wilt away in the scorching heat without water. These are realities of the hardships that were faced by 30-year-old Sheel Rani, 39-year-old farmer Raghho Pal and many others who hail from the Chhatarpur district of Madhya Pradesh's Bundelkhand region.

But all this changed in 2013, when an initiative by NGO, Haritika, with support from the Coca-Cola India Foundation – Anandana - created a mammoth check-dam. This one intervention by Coca-Cola in Bundelkhand, dramatically turned around the lives of 500 people in 50 poor Adivasi households on a water-scarce plateau in Madhya Pradesh, where the nearest water body was once more than 2.5 miles away. The village now has a water distribution system through a solar-powered bore well, 60 household toilets, 15 solar street lights and a check-dam that can hold more than 12 million litres of water.

But this is not just the story of one village it is the story of a lot of them. In India, one of the biggest issues communities face is water storage. The monsoon season, which runs from July to September, provides massive amounts of water. When summer arrives, India is faced with insufficient water supplies. So, for centuries, communities built check-dams to block the flow of monsoon water runoff so it can be stored year-round. But most rural communities in India have lost the infrastructure, know-how and resources for check dams, leaving them exposed to water shortages. 

Thankfully in Bundelkhand, The Coca-Cola India Foundation – Anandana – intervened to help groups of villages. It first invited partners that could determine the optimal locations for building check dams by using topographical studies. It then provided them financial support to build the check dams. Bundelkhand is not alone. The Coca-Cola India Foundation, Anandana has helped community members build 150 dams across Northern India, creating 13 billion litres of water storage potential, benefiting over 500,000 villagers. Says Venkatesh Kini, Former President and Southwest Asia, “We recognise the need for water stewardship and so we have set up rainwater harvesting structures, worked with local farmers for drip Irrigation, and created a lot of projects which have helped us replenish much more than 148 per cent of the water that we use. 

Through projects like these in 40 other such water-scarce areas across the country, Coca-Cola India is helping replenish about 13 billion litres of water.

People like Sheel Rani and Raghho Pal now have the facility of household water pumps and water storage facilities for the crops and they couldn’t be more grateful. “The check-dam has brought a lot of change in our lives. Now I manage to make Rs. 200 a week by selling fruit that is grown entirely in an organic way,” says Pal. People of Bundelkhand are finally heading towards economic prosperity with the crop patterns improving. In fact, their annual incomes now range between Rs.10,000 and Rs.15,000 and have doubled over the previous years.