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Indian industries are joining the UN Water Mandate: HCC CSR official

Mar 22, 2013

Dr Manoj Chaturvedi, Deputy General Manager-CSR-UN Water Mandate, Hindustan Construction Company (HCC), a leading infrastructure company, says that industries in the energy sector will consume 200 times more water by year 2025

Manoj Chaturvedi

OneWorld South Asia: What is your primary role in your current capacity at HCC?

Manoj Chaturvedi: We were the first endorser company in India for the UN Water Mandate. In 2008, HCC endorsed the UN Water Mandate and we started this journey by instituting a sub-department of CSR called UN Water Mandate team. This team, which comprises of water experts, designates  ‘water champion’ for each of our project sites to assess water impacts and conduct technical, social, and cost analysis of viable water interventions.

These water champions collect primary and secondary data and work with the community which dwells around the project for working out solutions for a sustainable water management in the area.

OWSA: Looking at the sheer numbers of companies in the constructions business, how crucial do you think it is for them to engage in water conservation?

Chaturvedi: Looking at the Planning Commission’s approach and as the government projection puts it, around $1 trillion is going to be spent for infrastructure development in next five years. In another 20 years, not less than $20 trillion, will be spent for building infrastructure. Therefore, there is a need for a provision for construction companies to utilise this opportunity to capture rain water and make a provision for recharging ground water. Authorities like the National Highways Authority of India, have already set such guidelines in water stressed areas.

The Government of India is also in the process of setting up an institution called Bureau of Water Efficiency (BWE) on the lines of Bureau of Energy Efficiency (BEE) and there are also plans to grade projects for using water efficiently. There is also a provision in the 12th Five Year Plan which will make water auditing mandatory for all the industries.

OWSA: How do you look at the water scarcity scenario in the country?

Chaturvedi: Entire India is water scarce in one way or the other. We are challenged with two kinds of water scarcity—physical water scarcity and economic water scarcity. Regions in South India and Madhya Pradesh are grappling with physical water scarcity while Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, West Bengal and those in the North East are facing economic water scarcity. In economic water security, there is availability of water but it cannot be used in its current state.

OWSA: A valuable resource like water is available for free to both individuals and companies. Do you think there is a need for regulation so that there is a judicious use of this resource?

Chaturvedi:  Pricing of water is important. The Supreme Court has clearly said that usage of water for drinking should be a priority, followed by its usage in agriculture and industry.

In most states, not only is water free for farmers but also the power used to draw it is either free or heavily subsidised. Farmers generally use the flood system of irrigation instead of drip irrigation which is not only harmful for their land but also leads to wastage of water.

I am talking about agriculture because it avails 70 per cent of the total water consumption. If we are able to improve efficiency of water usage by farmers by just two per cent, it will be beneficial. Government should focus on more proficient use of water in the agriculture sector.

OWSAWhat kind of role can the industry play in improving water efficiency?

Chaturvedi:  Unlike in the past, many Indian industries are coming up to become a part of the UN Water Mandate. The industry sector is next only to agriculture in terms of water consumption, therefore, it has to take the responsibility of spreading the message both in words and action for efficient water usage.

According to the government data, power industry consumes more water than the non-power sector. It is estimated that by 2025, industries in the energy sector will consume 200 times more water compared to today.

OWSA: You have a rich experience of working with organisations like the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and Water Action Hub. How do those roles make you better geared for your job?

Chaturvedi:  As part of the CEO Water Mandate initiative we focus on six key areas of operation including direct operation, supply chain and watershed development, public policy, collective action, community engagement and transparency. I put more emphasis on working with the local community for long term solutions to water woes.

OWSARecently HCC bagged the award for the best Social Investment Strategy at the World CSR Congress. How do you think it will encourage you to further your action for water conservation?

Chaturvedi: This award is for not just for our efforts in conserving water but for entire CSR activities and initiatives of HCC. Our CSR department is divided into five wings including those which are dedicated for water conservation initiatives and community engagement.

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