Until a few years back, Pooja Pavra and Mahendra Singh had to walk miles to get water. Those miles were hard, and with the sun totally unrelenting, their eyebrows often twitched, and their toes used to crack. But once they reach the nearest water body, the twitchiness, and cracks would transform into a glee of gushing water and the rich tapestry of colors and textures, teeming with life.
Today, Pooja or Mahendra doesn’t have to walk miles courtesy of the availability of water in their village. And both can’t stop smiling when quizzed about how the transformation has taken place. Pooja hails from Khamkheda, Dhule (Maharashtra) resident, and she will tell you that Coca-Cola’s water stewardship program has been instrumental in creating multiple water replenishment and conservation projects across the country. "Seeing our children prepare for school every day with backpacks on their shoulders instead of water cans, burdened with responsibilities early in the morning, brings happiness to our hearts."
Since Coca-Cola started its Water Stewardship program in 2009 through its global & local Foundation (Anandana), more than 150+ community water conservation projects have offered benefits to over a million community members and have helped replenish billions of liters annually in more than 10 states. These efforts align with the Amrit Sarovar Mission, which aims to develop and rejuvenate the country's local water bodies.
The Water Voyage Brings Joy To Millions
Along with the Lupin Human Welfare & Research Foundation and the Rajputana Society of Natural History, the company has been working to make a difference in Tontari Village, Dholpur (Rajasthan), by building two masonry check dams on the Bamani River. This 6.5 km-long water intervention has helped address the incessant water woes in the region and set a benchmark for other drought-prone areas.
The construction of water conservation structures has led to an increased storage capacity that resulted in hundreds of acres of irrigated land in the area where earlier there was lower acreage of irrigated land. More than 100 bore wells and an equal number of hand pumps are functional in nearby 10 villages, benefitting the villagers for their domestic and agricultural purposes.
Swati Samvatsar, Ex-Lupin Human Welfare & Research Foundation, stresses the benefits of the transformation. “Building the check dams was instrumental in ensuring water availability in the area. As a result, farmers today are diversifying their crops, and as a result, they can make agriculture sustainable. This transformation is inspiring many to be an active part of our initiative as well.”
In addition to the crops and vegetables that Mahendra Singh, a farmer from Dholpur, Rajasthan, used to grow, like wheat, potato, and tomato, he created a fruit orchard and drastically increased the number of fruits grown on his farm. He now grows lemons, amla, chikoo, oranges, papaya, and many others. Singh shared, “This transformation in my farmland has given me the much-needed financial security for my family in leading a respectful and comfortable life.”
Dholpur was not the only region that reaped the benefits of the water conservation efforts. Projects such as Dholpur are spread across the country in various states such as Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh etc.
Project Jal Sanrakshan has benefited 8,000 villagers in Gujarat through the three community-controlled check dams in the Panchmahal district. Another success is visible in Chhatarpur (Madhya Pradesh), where a check dam was built through its regional partner Haritika. Such sustainable initiatives have helped farmers become more climate resilient and reap the benefits of water availability for cultivating their farmland and using it for household purposes.
Bringing Grassroots Change
Recognizing Coca-Cola India's positive role in ensuring water sustainability, the Ministry of Jal Shakti, Government of India, conferred the National Water Award in the Best Industry in CSR for Water Conservation (2022). The award acknowledged Coca-Cola India's Jaldhara project that is being executed in Kolar, Karnataka, and Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh districts through Anandana – The Coca-Cola India Foundation and implementation partner – SM Sehgal Foundation. The project has impacted these regions by significantly improving groundwater levels, overall crop productivity, and farmers' livelihood through effective water resource management.
"Winning the Jal Shakti National Award is a testament to our dedication to creating a sustainable and inclusive future for all. The Jaldhara project has had a transformative impact, positively influenced communities, and contributed to holistic development in distressed regions across India”, says Devyani Rajya Laxmi Rana, Vice President of public Affairs, Communications, and Sustainability for India and Southwest Asia.
The Coca-Cola India Foundation is committed to being responsible stewards of water, a vital livelihood resource, and is making collective efforts in multiple states in India to improve water availability, quality, access, and governance. It will continue to partner with various stakeholders to increase its efforts in achieving positive water impact in vulnerable water basins by 2030 in India.