Committed to Bridging the Water Accessibility Gap in Rajasthan
The impact of Cairn India’s water management initiatives in Barmer are visible in the form of increased assurance of access to clean drinking water as well as growing green cover.
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The lack of access to safe and clean drinking water is a big socio-economic challenge in many parts of India. States like Rajasthan which receive relatively scant rainfall and are drought prone, often find it difficult to make clean drinking water available to people, sometimes despite availability. As a responsible corporate citizen, Cairn India Limited has undertaken several measures to address the situation…
1. Water crisis in Rajasthan
Rajasthan is one of the driest states in India. With about 10.4% percent of the country’s surface area and 5.5% of the population, it has merely 1.16% of surface water available in the country. Rainfall is usually scarce and regional rain distribution patterns are extremely inconsistent. Rajasthan also has the highest proportion of households reporting purchase of water. In the urban context, the demand for water (~1,800 million liters per day) was higher than supply (~1,475 MLD). Underground exploitation of water has increased massively, from just 35% in 1984 to as much as 138% in 2008, and is expected to touch about 190% in 2017. Of the 249 blocks in the state, the groundwater in about 80% is either over-exploited or at critically low levels.
As a result, residents in the rural parts of the state often walk long distances to source water for their daily needs. Apart from the number of man-hours lost daily in the process, the quality of this water is highly questionable as it generally does not meet the World Health Organization (WHO) defined norms for water safety. Ground water in the state is highly saline and is unsuitable for drinking or for agricultural purposes. The high total dissolved solids (TDS) content (more than 3000 mg/liter) with high fluoride content in water leads to several water borne diseases that impact the quality of life. The state also registers a very large number of incidences of diarrhea, which results in a high Infant Mortality Rate (IMR) as well as Maternal Mortality (MMR). Some other commonly known water borne diseases in the state are fluorosis, dysentery, and ‘blue baby’ syndrome.
Since businesses operating in this region consume a significant proportion of natural resources, it is their responsibility to give back to the society in a way that leads to long term social wealth creation. The role of private sector is also important because ensuring access to safe water is vital for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) established by the United Nations and endorsed by the Government of India.
2. Cairn India’s initiatives
Cairn India Limited is one of the largest independent oil and gas exploration and production companies in India. Its major oil fields are located in the Barmer district in western Rajasthan, where its average production rate is about 154,272 barrels of oil per day (boepd). The company has integrated water conservation and groundwater recharge measures not just in its corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives but also within its business operations.
Some of the company’s initiatives are detailed below:
2.1 Integrating water conservation and recharge within business priorities
Cairn India recognizes and respects the right of first use for accessible fresh water by the local community. Thus its endeavor is to utilize its expertise in geological and sub-surface studies to locate sources of water that are of no use to the communities and use these for its business operations. It monitors the water sources closely every year so that it can predict any adverse changes that could occur due to its current water abstraction practices.
Recycle and reuse of water is an important part of Cairn’s water management strategy. Nearly 97% of all its produced water is reused as part of the injection water. Based on company’s latest studies and estimates, it has abundant sources of water for its current and future needs. In Rajasthan, Cairn India’s operations are expected to impact less than 0.1% of the saline aquifer over the lifetime of its operations.
2.2 Touching lives through water security
Cairn India has started a sustainability program to support the Government of Rajasthan (GoR) in its effort to provide safe drinking water to households in the state. Through this program, Cairn India is expecting to touch the lives of a million-plus people.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed on the 7th of January, 2016 between the Public Health Engineering Department (PHED) of Rajasthan and Cairn Enterprise Centre Society, a Cairn India entity dedicated to increase and improve the employability of communities in Barmer. As per this MoU, water purification plants will be established and maintained by Cairn India to provide water to more than 800 villages in Barmer. The initiative will involve setting up of 333 water purification plants (1,000 to 3,000 litres per hour capacity) over the next few years.
Company started the Jeevan Amrit pilot project in collaboration with the Government of Rajasthan to provide clean and safe drinking water through the establishment of Water ATW (Any-time Water) kiosks in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh states. Cairn currently operates 78 ATW plants in Rajasthan and Gujarat, which have the best-in-class utilization and is establishing about 52 more such kiosks.
The quality and supply of water at Water ATW kiosks can be monitored remotely through SMS alerts or the Android™ mobile platform. This provides real-time access of crucial parameters such as TDS levels, input and output water quality as well as flow rates. Since power availability is another challenge in the state, Cairn is using solar powered ATWs in some parts of in Barmer.
During the year focus was on increasing the utilization of the existing plants through various water distribution mechanism, for which Cairn has partnered with a few local entrepreneurs to run a ‘water on wheels’ system (called Jal Rath) to provide safe drinking water at door step, which fosters a spirit of rural entrepreneurship.
What makes the Jeevan Amrit project and ‘water on wheels’ even more special is that both these are community managed initiative, giving members a sense of ownership and rural employment opportunities. Therefore, it addresses more than one socio-economic issues simultaneously.
Cairn India’s efforts in Barmer over the past decade has really changed the complexion of that region in terms of education, health and agricultural sustainability. Over the course of the next three years, Cairn India is planning to expand the reach of the Jeevan Amrit ATW (Any-time Water) program to reach 800 villages. This means that the program will be able to provide safe drinking water to over a million villagers. This program is reflective of Cairn India’s ambition and vision of sustainable practices.
2.3 Focus on agriculture
The Barmer district has a dry desert climate. Cairn India uses water conservation structures such as runoff management (RM) to help farmers maximize the benefits of precious rainwater and recharge groundwater. This rainwater can later be used for irrigation and other purposes. These structures have been constructed on farmers’ fields under the Barmer Unnati project, a partnership between Cairn India and TechnoServe, an international non-profit organization that works towards promoting business solutions to the developing world. These RM structures are built across slopes to collect surface runoff water during the rainy season and prevent erosion of soil from one field to another.
Given the arid conditions in the Barmer region, Cairn India's Barmer Unnati project emphasizes training locals on water management techniques. The horticulture and sustainable agriculture program initiated by the company has benefited more than 6000 farmers by improving management of water using drip irrigation practices and increasing soil moisture retention through the use of khadins – specialized water harvesting structures.
Cairn India has helped build 430 such structures. 654 wadi have been established with drip irrigation technique and 50,000 fruit saplings have been planted with 70% survival rate. These interventions have allowed farmers to practice multi-cropping and grow cash crops such as vegetables and mushrooms which require lesser water.
In addition to the above, to address the shortage of skills in agriculture and allied occupations in Barmer, the project created a cadre of entrepreneurial farmers or local youth. So far, the first batch of 21 Cairn Agri-Fellows graduated to start their own enterprise including dairying, goat, farming, mushroom farming, and to work as a field extension workers.
Cairn’s dairy cooperative program has been significantly expanded with an increase in daily milk production from to -9500 litres per day with the establishment of 5 Bulk Milk Coolers.
3. Driving impact
The impact of Cairn India’s water management initiatives in Barmer are visible in the form of increased assurance of access to clean drinking water as well as growing green cover. For its water management initiatives, the company has been bestowed with awards such as ‘Special Technical Award-Corporate-for Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility’ for our Safe drinking water project at PetroTech, The ‘National CSR Leadership’ Award at the National CSR Leadership Congress in Bangalore organized by World Sustainability Organization and The BT-CSR Excellence award, for our Jeevan Amrit Project and the Best Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Practice award at the 6th Asia Best CSR Practices Awards 2016 hosted by CMO Asia at Singapore.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house
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