Project Boond, BPCL's flagship CSR programme has fetched Bharat Petroleum Corporation Ltd the "Excellence Award for Social Responsibility" that was announced at the 21st World Petroleum Congress organized in Moscow recently. Bharat Petroleum bagged this prestigious recognition competing with finalists like Shell and Exxon Mobil from among 100 nominations worldwide.
Aimed at companies that operate with high standards of excellence in Social Responsibility and Technological Development, the World Petroleum Council recognizes outstanding projects and innovations in the oil and gas sector with the World Petroleum Council Excellence Awards (WPCEA) every three years. Bharat Petroleum is proud to receive it for a life changing initiative like Project Boond. Mr. K. K. Gupta, Director Marketing, received the award for Bharat Petroleum at the World Petroleum Congress in Moscow on 16 June 2014.
Starting out with four villages in 2009, today BPCL has transformed more than 150 villages into water positive dwellings through Project Boond.
Every drop of water is precious
"If there is magic on this planet it is contained in water. We only know the worth of water when wells run dry."
Water scarcity in India has grabbed headlines for decades now. So severe is the situation, that thousands of people in our country do not have access to basic drinking water. India has about 17 per cent of the world’s population as compared to only 4 per cent of its water resources. The lack of water availability and poor management practices have manifested in poor sanitation facilities, one of the biggest environmental and social challenges that India faces today. (UN REPORT).
Recognizing the severity of this daily battle being fought by thousands of people living in rural and urban India, BPCL has over the years committed itself to this cause, and supported projects to arrest this problem. When we started, we focused on 'drinking-water' - introducing projects that would facilitate conservation of water for drinking purposes. However, we have gradually evolved our strategy to include projects and practices which are aimed at increasing availability of water for agriculture, livestock and ground water recharge, all of which assume importance as we continue to use bore-wells which results in the depletion of ground water.
In Southern India (Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh & Karnataka), it has been observed that tank cascades, bore - wells and local ponds which are important sources for irrigation, and significant to the rural economy and local eco - system of areas which record low rainfall, have become redundant due to negligence. The ground water is depleting, and lack of maintenance of traditional harvesting systems such as tank cascades, has severely affected its storage capacity. In view of this critical situation, we collaborated with DHAN foundation to preserve, manage and maintain 'tank cascades', and also revive farm ponds.
'Water - Scarce to Water - Positive'
We have been successful in bringing together farmers to revive tanks in some parts of Kolar and Tumkur districts in Karnataka, Tuticorin district in Tamil Nadu which were experiencing severe droughts It had sapped their economy and led to massive migration of people to urban India. Most of the open wells had gone dry, and the soil had lost all its moisture and become powdery even at a depth of two meters. However, due to the efforts of the farmers who were formed into groups called Vayalagams, they were able to achieve the following:
They desilted several tanks and their feeder channels, reinforced the bund, evicted the encroachments and undertook foreshore plantation to check soil erosion.
Created/restored over 200 farm ponds, village ponds and wells with a total storing capacity of around 15 crore liters of water.
Rejuvenated nearly 35 tanks
The recharged tanks also brought increased revenue through fishery, and plantation of fruit-bearing trees along the bund and foreshore areas; Tukaneshwar, a farmer by profession grew Brinjal and Marigold crops, which earned him Rs. 1 lakh in the year 2014.
In order to rehabilitate these cascades and as a sustainable strategy, we organized members of the village into Tank Farmers Associations called 'Vayalagams' who were engaged in the process of implementing, operating and maintaining the project. Through our sustained efforts toward rehabilitation of these tank cascades in 95 villages, we have been successful in reducing the community's dependency on monsoon resulting in provision of increased livelihood opportunities for the landless.
Mokhada in Thane district of Maharashtra which suffers from acute water shortage during summer is another region where introduced projects focused on conserving water. While this area records a very high rainfall, the extreme slopes and geological conditions results in high runoff, leading to water scarcity. The area is also notorious for deaths due to malnourishment and high unemployment rates. Moreover, as agriculture in this area is largely rain - fed, landholders can only practice subsistence farming in the kharif season, leading to large - scale migration in the non- monsoon period. It also results in women's drudgery as they have to travel long distances to fetch water, amongst other things.
Thus, with the objective of reducing migration and to mitigate the water related difficulties and challenges faced by the locals, we have started projects to build indigenous structures such as ponds, wells, gabions, and cordoned off springs, so that more water is available for drinking, domestic purposes and livestock. These activities have also helped promote other sustainable livelihood activities such as horticulture and agriculture. Through this project, we have educated the farmers about different farming practices, and also assisted them in adopting it.
Since the inception of these projects, we have collected over 50 crore litres of water. Due to these projects, not only do the farmers and their families have to travel less distances for water, it has even reduced their dependency on water tankers.
Built indigenous structures such as ponds, wells, gabions, and cordoned off spring to conserve water
Collected over 37 crores litres of water in Mokhada
Promoted other sustainable livelihood activities such as horticulture, floriculture and agriculture
Reduced migration of youth to urban India
Reduced community's dependency on water tankers by 50%
The suicides in Vidarbha, which is located in the state of Maharashtra, are a painful reminder of the fact that much more needs to be done to correct the gross inequality that persists in our society. To address this, we in collaboration with M.S. Swaminathan research organization started a project called Mahila Kissan Sashakthikaran Pariyojana in Wardha and Yavatmal, which was aimed at empowering farmers, especially women farmers in these regions. The project included:
Setting-up soil testing labs in these regions
Starting a helpline to assist farmers in adopting superior farming practices
Dissemination of audio – advisories
Created a unique phone based system which provided all information related to crop – management
Project covered 1773 farmers of which 1080 were women farmers
We have also supported several rain-water harvesting projects in Bharatpur, in the state of Rajasthan, which has a history of droughts and floods. The extreme weather conditions and limited rainfall has made this region arid. It has also affected its economy which is largely dependent on agriculture. Our projects have been able to increase water retention period in wells and hand pumps, and soil moisture retention around UG Bunds. It has also made irrigation of wheat and mustard more convenient, as less water is required from bore wells.
Moreover, we have also been successful in restoring the flora and fauna of this region. There is an increase in green cover around the water canal, accompanied by an increase in frequency of sighting bio-indicator group of organisms like butterflies and odonates around the local ecological setup.
All our BOOND projects demand sustainability; in order to ensure that all the projects that we have undertaken are sustainable, we made 'community participation' at all levels an integral part of our projects. The community was encouraged to participate in the planning, implementation and maintenance of proposed drinking water and irrigation structures. To further their involvement in the projects, we also motivated them to contribute 25% of the expenses so that they become more responsible and assume its ownership. It also contributes to the community themselves where they adopt additional skills in the process of contributing to the projects. Community contribution increases the commitment from the community, motivates them, thus developing a long-term sustenance for the projects. Several committees such as Village Water Committees, Women's Self Help Group, Farmers' group and Children Water Clubs were also formed to educate and empower participants. This made it an organized effort, where all members of the community are focused and work towards a particular goal. Lastly, we also held sessions for capacity building of these community groups. These sessions equipped them with skills required to maintain and monitor the projects independently. The process of involving the community, encouraging them to make a financial contribution, organizing the community into work groups for focused effort and building their capacities to achieve the desired goal has led to formulate an effective foundation for us to step out of the areas once we make the community self reliant.