The Coca-Cola Foundation will promote water conservation in five villages in Dungarpur district of Rajasthan and another five in Thirunelveli district of Tamil Nadu. Both districts suffer from acute water scarcity.
The foundation has pledged us $1,40,000 to the one-year integrated watershed management project to be carried out in collaboration with the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (icrisat) and the Confederation of Indian Industry (cii). icrisat and cii are expected to undertake action-research on rainfed agriculture, conjunctive use of water resources and development of policy and institutions for sustainable and equitable management of water.
The project is being seen as a public relations exercise to improve the image of Coca-Cola company, which is notorious as a groundwater exploiter. Panchayati raj institutions and civil society organisations have often protested against the company's misuse of water resources.
The project is aimed at improving the lot of poor and marginal farmers by plugging gaps in soil and water conservation schemes, creating water access for poorly endowed families and efficient use of rainwater for improved agricultural practices. Under the project, farmers will be encouraged to grow high-value water-efficient crops to increase their earnings. Training and capacity building of target communities will also be taken up.
According to icrisat director general William Dar, the collaboration between the Confederation of Indian Industry (cii) and the Coca-Cola Foundation will strengthen the institute's partnership with the private sector to help farmers in the drylands of India. Earlier, icrisat has collaborated on watershed development with the Sir Dorabjee Tata Trust and the tvs Agricultural Science Research Institute. Deepak Jolly of Coca-Cola India has the last word: "A rapidly growing population, increasing food requirements and improved lifestyles along with industrial development in the country has resulted in competing demand for finite water resources." One wonders if improved lifestyle includes drinking more Coke?
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