“Making available Portable Drinking Water”

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In the last 3 decades, Canara Bank under its Trust, Canara Bank Centenary Rural Development Trust, has been undertaking programmes aimed at developing the lives of people from the lower strata of the society and bringing about socio-economic transformation in different rural areas. Out of them all, the project on clean drinking water, Bhagirathi has been the more popular one. Rakesh Sharma, MD & CEO, Canara Bank, shares more details on the project and its modalities

Could you throw some more light on the initiative of CBCRDT?

Canara Bank Centenary Rural Development Trust (CBCRDT) was set up in 1982 to promote rural development. Under this trust, the bank has been initiating and implementing multifaceted programmes aimed at development of people from the lower strata of the society. The Bank has been playing a pivotal role and trying to bring about a socio-economic transformation in the society, particularly in rural areas. The CSR initiatives of the bank are multifarious, covering different spheres like training unemployed youth, primary health, drinking water, community development, empowerment of women and various philanthropic initiatives.

The Trust has established exclusive training institutes to motivate and promote entrepreneurship by imparting special skills to the unemployed. The Canara Bank Artisan Training Institute comprise of specialised units for rejuvenation of traditional arts and craft in rural areas. Canara Bank Institute for Information Technology (CBIIT) was established to assist the urban population like slum dwellers; to have access to IT.

But the most prominent project has been the clean drinking water project in the Kolar district called Bhagirathi. This is the first project that is aimed to provide portable drinking ground water to 217 villages in Kolar district.

What kind of support have you received from other corporates, panchayats and NGOs?

The tender process as per the norms was followed and the villages were allotted to three vendors for under taking installation work of driving water units. The vendors conducted site survey and feasibility study in the villages allotted in consultation with the concerned Govt. Departments, Grampanchayath etc.

Borewell points were identified, provided and dug by Panchayats using Govt. funds that were provided for the implementation of the project. The borewell is then fitted with the purifiers that have been provided by various vendors. The water that is purified is then made available to the villagers in concessional rates. The villagers are provided with Smart cards in order to regulate the system.

How do you mobilize the funds required for such an initiative?

Canara Bank has allocations from the CSR fund for such initiatives. The fund is provided by bank, routed through the Canara Bank Trust.

What kind of challenges have you experienced so far in your initiative?

There was the need for quality drinking water, as there was immense dearth of it. The groundwater that was available contained high amount of fluoride which was contaminated and harmful for health. Earlier the villagers were availing poor quality drinking water at higher rates from distant places. Additionally, in some villages challenges were encountered in the process of implementation:
• Inadequate source of water
• Dispute over the ownership of land granted by respective grampanchayath
• Non availability of power supply
• Delay in technical clearance by concerned authorities
• Local political issues

What according to you would be its success factor?

The Bank has appointed a supervising committee that implements and ensures the project is on track. Officials from the head office and Circle office visit the site on regular intervals to ensure smooth completion of the installation of the plants.

The need for quality drinking water which is been supplied to the doorsteps is clearly the success of this project. 20 liters of water is available for a negligible amount of Rs. 5 from the water purifier. The Canara Bank Trust has implemented the project and is being executed under a contract of five years by TATA Project, Mint Aqua and Fontus. Aqua Chem is the service provider for the project for supervision and maintenance.

All the plants were fitted with a water tank that has a capacity of 3000 liters for storing pure RO drinking water to serve the people round the clock. Each RO unit has a capacity of 500 (LPH), working on an average for 8 hours per day that is able to generate 4,000 liters of pure drinking water which meets the daily need of the villagers. Thus, 6.24 Lakh Liters of pure drinking water supply is ensured every day through this project.

The Mega Project of providing RO water units has been successfully completed in 156 villages of Kolar district at a total cost of Rs. 11.40 crores. All these units are made operational and the villages are reaping the benefits. Over 1, 00,000 people from these 156 villages have been benefitted by this project.

How grave is the problem of pure drinking water in the country and what kind of projects has been undertaken by Canara Bank to address this issue?

Two thirds of the world’s population currently lives in areas that experience water scarcity for at least one month a year. About 500 million people live in areas where water consumption exceeds the locally renewable water resources by a factor of two. Highly vulnerable areas, where non-renewable resources (i.e. fossil groundwater) continue to decrease, have become highly dependent on transfers from areas with abundant water and are actively seeking affordable alternative sources.

The availability of water resources is also intrinsically linked to water quality, as the pollution of water sources may prohibit different type of uses. Increased discharges of untreated sewage, combined with agricultural runoff and inadequately treated wastewater from industry, have resulted in the degradation of water quality around the world. If current trends persist, water quality will continue to degrade over the coming decades, particularly in resource-poor countries in dry areas, further endangering human health and ecosystems, contributing to water scarcity and constraining sustainable economic development.

The health burden of poor drinking water quality is enormous. It is estimated that around 37.7 million Indians are affected by water diseases annually, 1.5 million children are affected to die of diarrhoea alone and 73 million working days are lost due to waterborne disease each year. The problems of chemical contamination are also prevalent in India with 1,95,813 habitants in the country being affected by poor drinking water quality.

Canara Bank has begun with the initiative called ‘Bhagirathi’ – an extremely significant pure drinking water project to address this issue.

What will be your roadmap in taking up such kind of initiatives in the near future?

Canara Bank will engage directly in CSR through Trust and institutions already set up by the Bank. The Bank may even explore setting up new Trusts/institutions as may be required for pursuing its CSR objectives.

The Bank will also partner with like minded reputed organizations like Government and non-Government organizations, voluntary agencies, civil society organizations, social entrepreneurs, companies, community based organizations, trusts/missions, and self help groups and institutes/academic organizations. In case of such partnerships, bank will document a mutual expectation and impact matrix in the form of Memorandum of Understanding (MoU).

Samrita Baruah

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