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Water for people

The group has partnered with the Aakar Charitable Trust (ACT), founded by Amla Ruia. Since 2006, the Trust has been successful in the field of water harvesting as its constructions have withstood the test of time.

Published on December 19, 2020 at 2:03 pm

Updated on March 20, 2021 at 06:47 am


No longer journery for water.
Following the success of its pilot project, Shapoorji Pallonji Group has built 31 check dams in collaboration with local partners in 30 villages of water-scarce Alwar district of Rajasthan so far

Alarge part of India, specifically rural India is facing severe water stress. As the dependency on groundwater increases, the water table continues to deplete. This is affecting agriculture and basic sustenance in rural India. With the view to provide access to water in one of the most water-scarce districts in India, the Shapoorji Pallonji Group launched a pilot project to build check dams in the Alwar district of Rajasthan in April 2018. Since then, a total of 31 check dams have been built across 30 villages by October 2019.

The group has partnered with the Aakar Charitable Trust (ACT), founded by Amla Ruia. Since 2006, the Trust has been successful in the field of water harvesting as its constructions have withstood the test of time. The Trust implements a collaborative model. The villagers who contributed 30-40% towards the construction have started maintaining their structures and have taken themselves to a new level of prosperity and self-sufficiency.

The intent to contribute towards the construction of check dams is that they make the provision for chemical-free water collected from rains. They also safeguard the area from drought as well as floods. A single rain at the beginning of the monsoon season will not assure even a good Kharif (monsoon crop) crop but if a check dam is there, that rain will be held by the check dam which will in turn recharge all the bores and wells in the vicinity, thus ensuring a hassle-free Kharif and hope for a reasonable Rabi (winter crop) even in scarce monsoon rains. Wells nearby the structure get replenished in no time by the natural capillary action of the soil, and all hand pumps, bore wells in the vicinity are recharged. With the availability of water, the farmers quickly develop additional acres of land and take them under cultivation for the winter crop. Earlier, only 2% of the land was ploughed but now 98% of the land comes under irrigated cultivation. Most of the farmers take two crops, while some even take a third crop of vegetables. Check dams have all the advantages of large dams with none of the disadvantages – like water logging or displacement of the populace.


Check dam in a village in Alwar.
A pilot project backed by the Shapoorji Pallonji Group began last year. A total of 10 check dams were identified pre-monsoon in the highly water-deprived areas of Rajgarh and Thanagazi tehsils in the Alwar district of Rajasthan. Emboldened by the initial response to the pilot project, 7 more check dams were built across villages in Alwar district in FY 2018-19. The dams have started collecting water in the monsoon of 2019. And by the end of FY 2019-20, there is an aim to have 50 water harvesting structures ready across the country in collaboration with local partners.

The exercise was undertaken with the help of local community leaders and farmers. The volunteers connect with the local people and spread awareness on the benefits of water harvesting. Field teams understand the challenges and help solve local problems. The villagers guide the site selection process and are involved in the decision making at every step. Site selection is one of the prime criteria. A hilly terrain from where water flows into the catchments area for the check dam, where masonry work is minimal to deter possibilities of cracks and proximity to the farmland are key considerations. Experts with an experience of at least 2,000 water harvesting structures are employed to take care of the design of the structures in consultation with the villagers who understand the topography and the nature of water.

Rich harvest due to check dams.
Meetings are held with the villagers and they are explained the importance of a collaborative model of functioning. This provides a sense of ownership and makes the work sustainable because they then are ready to maintain it. They bring all the stone, water and contribute 1/3rd in the digging and compacting of the soil. They have to contribute all the stone, water and 1/3rd in the digging and compacting of the soil. The dam consists of part masonry and part earthen bunding. The Trust provides JCB, cement, mason, all the labor-expenses for the masonry work and 2/3rd labour for the earthen work. It takes two to three months for new construction.

“The Shapoorji Pallonji Group has given a tremendous impetus to ACT’s projects. They offered their support at a time when we needed funds. So we are thankful to them that the work continued unabated,” says Amla Ruia, adding that she has been encouraged by the personal focus of Tanya Mistry, Director CSR, and Zarine Commissariat, Head CSR, at Shapoorji Pallonji. “I was fortunate to be present during one site visit with Tanya and Zarine. Tanya charmed everyone and won over the hearts of the simple women folk by being sincerely concerned about their wellbeing and by promising them that she will visit again to note the improvements. We are hoping to have a continued and lasting relationship with them. It is this kind of sustained support that we value immensely because of which a lot of good can be accomplished for our underprivileged brothers and sisters,” said Ruia.


Villagers on a check dam at an Alwar village.
There were many benefits seen within the first year. In the first monsoon in 2018, 320 million litres of water was stored. This resulted in positively benefiting 20,000 people across villages. Most importantly, the direct beneficiaries were 6,000 women who used to walk 3km every day to draw water from wells earlier. The farmers were able to complete 3 crop cycles versus a single cycle, and this led to an increase of 37% in income levels, in just the first crop cycle. With this, a reverse exodus from urban areas has begun, with the youth coming back to their homes to contribute to their lands, instead of living on footpaths and shanties in cities. This project was undertaken to facilitate not only material benefits but also induce the villagers to practice positive behavioural practices, such as a commitment to stop child marriage, dowry system and excessive alcohol and tobacco use. Once these commitments are ensured, the ground teams begin the work.

“At Shapoorji Pallonji, we believe in enabling social change along with empowering our communities. Our interventions are committed towards leaving a better planet for future generations. For us, CSR is an innate responsibility towards developing a sustainable future,” says Zarine Commissariat, Head CSR, Shapoorji Pallonji and Company Pvt. Ltd.

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