Multi business conglomerate ITC Ltd has taken the route of public private partnerships (PPP) with state governments and NABARD in five states under the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MGNREGA), Integrated Watershed Management Programme (IWMP) and Integrated Watershed Development Programme (IWDP).

The PPP project plans to cover 1,00,000 hectares of watershed development in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal by the end of this fiscal.

ITC started watershed development as part of its corporate social responsibility in 2007 and till date has signed 19 PPPs with State governments and NABARD in five States covering 143,753 Ha under the three schemes.

“Many of ITC’s businesses are agri-based. As a result, farming communities are integral to its value chains and their productivity and competitiveness is inextricably linked to that of the company. Responding to the challenges faced by these communities, ITC evolved its Integrated Watershed Development programme with the conservation and management of water and other natural resources and the creation of sustainable livelihoods as its cornerstones,” says Dr Asesh Ambasta, Vice President and head, social investments.

There is over 98,000 hectares of land under soil and moisture conservation practices of ITC’s IWDP in 25 districts impacting 95,000 households, according to the company.

ITC also works with voluntary organisations as implementation partners to mobilise villagers to form Water User Groups. The company says that these groups are trained to carry out the entire spectrum of activities from implementing soil and moisture conservation measures to building, reviving and maintaining water-harvesting structures to reverse land degradation and extend critical irrigation and raise agricultural productivity.

According to the company, “by the close of the financial year 2011-12 there were 756 functioning Water User Groups, which had a cumulative maintenance fund of Rs. 47.57 lakh. Civil work on structures generated 2.6 million person-days of employment, particularly benefiting the landless.”

The majority of the watershed projects are located in areas where ITC's e-Choupal operates and it has its agri- businesses. These watershed development projects enable the company to maintain its water positive status. The total rainwater harvesting potential so far created by the company is twice the net water consumption by its operations, it claims.