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MAKING EVERY DROP COUNT: Hindustan Unilever takes a comprehensive approach to combat the urban and rural water challenges in India

Across the world , governments have been battling multiple consequences of water scarcity. The lack of access to water for even basic needs has not just impacted agriculture and industries but also the personal health of millions of people across the world in the recent years. The world is now seeking innovative solutions that tackle the problem at the grassroot level and bring about lifestyle changes that will help conserve water and help the planet regain its natural hydrologic cycle.

Additionally, it has come to light that the supply of water in India could be half its demand by 2030. According to the NITI Aayog report(June 2018), this could cause severe water scarcity for millions of people. Realising how this prediction could derail India’s growth and development, Hindustan Unilever (HUL) has undertaken a number of initiatives to conserve water. These initiatives undertaken in the last decade have not just helped reduce the adverse effects of water scarcity but have also helped empower those worst hit by the issue.

HUL in 2010, established the Hindustan Unilever Foundation (HUF), a non-profit company that anchors its initiatives in community development and sustainability in the space of water management. The Foundation supports various knowledge initiatives and programmes focussed on water conservation, community-based governance of water resources and efficient use of water in agriculture.

HUL’s efforts in the space of water conservation are geared towards product innovations and creating efficiency in production processes. For example, HUF’s Water for Public Good programme works in collaboration with non-profit organizations and has delivered fantastic solutions for water security and well-being for rural communities.

Creating water potential of 1.3 trillion litres and transforming the lives of farmers

Recently , farmers of Maharashtra's Sonushi village (Nashik) benefited immensely from an HUF initiative. These paddy-growing farmers stood to lose revenue as their lands would be vacant right after harvest. HUF and MITTRA (Maharashtra Institute of Technology Transfer for Rural Areas) joined hands to offer a solution to these farmers. The HUF – MITTRA team promoted a unique irrigation solution in the village and set up a diversion-based irrigation system – a simple, low-cost method which helped the farmers get access to water all throughout the year.

Working with the farmers around HUL factories, Project Prabhat – HUL's sustainable community development initiative, helps manage the demand and supply of water that gets used in agricultural practices. The programme helps collectively build robust water structures. The farmers now generate a much larger agriculture produce and it has helped them earn more as well.

Saving & recycling millions of litres of water in urban slums

While water scarcity in India's rural areas is a major concern with over 60 districts facing acute water shortage, low-income communities in the country's urban areas also face a similar problem. Particularly, during the global pandemic, people living in urban slums have been disproportionately affected by the lack of clean water and sanitation bringing with it an additional burden of contracting viruses, among other communicable and non-communicable diseases. HUL has taken the lead in changing this scenario with a pioneering initiative.

Community hygiene centres, known as Suvidha Centres, have been set up by Hindustan Unilever in partnership with HSBC, to supplement the efforts of the government. The centers ensure that clean toilets, affordable safe drinking water, and state-of-theart laundry services are available to urban low-income households in Mumbai. While Suvidha centres are already active in 5 locations in Mumbai, the sixth and biggest centre yet, is now coming up at Dharavi. Via the 5 active centres, over 12,000 individuals are reached daily.

Suvidha centres have been carefully designed keeping the environmental impact of water use into consideration. The design is based on a circular economy approach to water, using recycled water from showers, handwashing facilities and laundry services for flushing purposes. The process, thus, saves and recycles a total of over 21 million litres of water across centres.

As of 2020, HUL's achievements include:

• 1.3 trillion litres of water potential created across 52 districts in India

• Over 21 million litres of water saved and recycled via Suvidha Centres

• Over 1 million tons of additional agricultural and biomass production generated

• More than 30 million employment days created through water conservation and increased agriculture production.

On World Water Day 2021, HUL renews its pledge to keep contributing innovative solutions to mitigate India's water scarcity and to continue to bring smiles on to the faces of those whose lives it touches every day.

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Printable version | Sep 23, 2021 3:27:12 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/brandhub/making-every-drop-count-hindustan-unilever-takes-a-comprehensive-approach-to-combat-the-urban-and-rural-water-challenges-in-india/article34172879.ece

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