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On World Water Day, Anjana Ghosh From Bisleri International Talks About Water Conservation and CSR

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Bisleri, the leading water bottle brand, firmly believes in responsible business practices. Owing to its contribution to water stress and plastic waste in the environment, it has endeavoured to not only optimise its operations but to do its best to conduct its business in a sustainable manner. Additionally, it has launched several initiatives with an aim to give back to the environment and the community at large.
This World Water Day, in an exclusive conversation with The CSR Journal, Ms Anjana Ghosh, Director – Marketing, Bisleri International Pvt. Ltd. talks about the company’s contribution towards water conservation and other initiatives by the company aimed at social development.

1. India is one of the largest drawers of groundwater in the world. And on the other hand, it uses only about 25 per cent of the rainwater it receives. How can corporates improve the usage of rainwater in the country?

The Indian mainland receives ample rainfall, the annual rainfall being 400 million hectare metre. However, out of this India fails to use even 10-20 per cent of the rainfall as most of the water is lost as it is led into the sea. This is very alarming since this water can be used to recharge the groundwater and with a very simple technique called rainwater harvesting.
As a part of our larger purpose of giving back to the communities and the environment, our Project Nayi Umeed concentrates on building and restoring check dams. However, there is a necessity for corporates to step in and help bring awareness of what we are missing and how every individual can play a part in harvesting rainwater. Companies can invest in the right technology so that rainwater can be skillfully harvested, treated and reused. A rainwater harvesting system is a very cost-effective solution that yields great benefits for companies.
Companies can implement a rainwater harvesting system by collecting the rain from roof sewers, filtering it and storing the water in a tank. The water stored can be used in daily functions such as in the washrooms, gardening and other purposes post-filtering. The ecological benefit of the rainwater harvesting systems for commercial buildings is that there will be a significant reduction in the amount of water used from the mains.

2. What are some of the initiatives by Bisleri for Rainwater harvesting?

 For every 1 Ltr of water that is drawn out, Bisleri harvest 10 Ltr of Rainwater. Water scarcity is a major concern in today’s scenario. Rainwater harvesting is a sustainable process that helps in the preservation of water for future needs.
Bisleri’s initiative on rainwater harvesting is centred on building and restoring check dams in rural areas and installing a rooftop rainwater harvesting system in urban areas. Of all the initiatives undertaken by us, the one that has created the greatest social impact is Project Nayi Ummeed through which the brand aims to conserve rainwater by building and restoring check dams.
Check Dams help store surface water for use both during and after the monsoon and also help in groundwater recharge of the area. Recharge of water helps in raising the water table in the area. The harvested rainwater is used for irrigation, enabling farmers to cultivate their land not once, but multiple times in a year thus powering prosperity and growth.
Bisleri undertook the first Check Dam project in 2001 at Village Bara in Kutch, Gujarat. Since then, Check Dams have been built or restored across Gujarat and Western & Central parts of Maharashtra. These Check Dams have helped harvest 16.5 billion litres of water covering more than 124 villages and benefiting around 10,000 families. A total of 6,500 acres of land has been irrigated turning all the barren lands into fertile farms. As a result, per farmer’s average annual income in some areas of Gujarat and Maharashtra has gone up by around Rs.50, 000  to Rs.1, 00,000 per year. As, of now, 131 check dams have been constructed and restored all over Gujarat and Maharashtra.

All of Bisleri’s initiatives involve the participation of the community. The rainwater harvesting initiatives are done in collaboration and with the active participation of the community. This is done to ensure the sustainability of the initiatives and create ownership amongst the community. Bisleri’ scouts for a suitable Trust/NGO and engages with them for the execution of the check dam projects.  The company along with the NGO meets with the villagers to discuss and define the scope of the engagement in order to ensure sustainability.  On completion of the project, the beneficiary villagers ensure its maintenance over the years.
Rainwater harvesting is a good environmental practice that aims at the conservation of water which will not just benefit people personally but also the environment at large.

3. Beverage companies are often held responsible for depleting natural water resources for their operations, leaving the communities bereft of it. How is Bisleri working towards water conservation?

Bisleri focuses on sustainable growth. Through all its endeavours, Bisleri tries to give back more to nature. Our ‘PROJECT Nayi Ummeed’, focuses to conserve rainwater by building and restoring check dams in rural areas and installing a rooftop rainwater harvesting system in urban areas. Check Dams help store surface water for use both during and after the monsoon and also help in groundwater recharge. A small step towards water conservation. Under this project, Bisleri undertook the first Check Dam Project in 2001 at village Bara in Kutch, Gujarat. Since then, more than 131 check dams have been built or restored across Gujarat and Maharashtra. As of 2020, this project has helped harvest more than 16,500 million litres of water, recharge hundreds of wells and borewells, and helped irrigate more than 6,500 acres of land.

4. Citizens are often asked to conserve water and use it judiciously. However mostly, corporates are considered responsible for depleting the water resource. What measures is Bisleri taking to reduce the waste of water in its operations?

Every drop of rainwater is God’s given gift to us. Bisleri has 136 plants across India, at every plant, it is mandatory to have a Rainwater harvesting system and pits. Roof water and surface water are all collected to charge bore well pits. All sales offices and head office have a Roof water harvesting system.

5. PET bottles cause a lot of pollution by getting accumulated in the water bodies or landfills. What is Bisleri doing to compensate for its contribution of PET bottles to the environment?

Plastic is one of the most versatile material invented by humans. Treating plastic as waste is not the solution; if used and disposed off responsibly, plastic is not harmful to the environment. ‘Bottles for Change’, a model that is designed and implemented by Bisleri International Pvt. Ltd., focuses to create awareness amongst all citizens about the importance of recycling plastic in our lives and best practices towards a cleaner environment. This programme aims to bring about a habit change in society by cleaning the plastic after its use, segregating and sending it for recycling. As a part of the program, we conduct plastic recycling awareness and collection drives in schools, colleges, corporate offices, malls, festive & social gatherings, events, etc. Bisleri has partnered with 3 Non-Governmental Organisations in Mumbai – Parisar Bhagini Vikas Sangh, Sampurna Earth and Garbage Concern Welfare Society. The plastic collected by Bottles for Change is crushed into fine flakes, which are then used to create non-edible products such as furniture, cloth fabric, shoes, t-shirts, handbags, and many more. The motive of this model is to ‘Be the Change You Want to See’ and become an example by disposing of the plastic responsibly, which leads to a cleaner environment.

6. In India, there is a lack of knowledge about the importance and the know-how of waste segregation. There is a distinct need for educating the masses regarding it. What is the Company’s stance on this?

Used plastic segregation that starts from home is very basic but the most crucial part of the recycling process. Plastic is a widely used material and has become a part of all of our lives. Hence, it has become quite important to understand the proper methods of disposing of it so that it causes less harm to the environment. There exists a lot of misconceptions among the masses as they fail to understand the proper ways of clean plastic segregation.
In the process of sorting out waste, the kabadiwalas and the rag pickers do not send dirty plastic for recycling and that hence goes to the dump yards. This is simply because the plastic that is mixed with wet waste takes time and energy to be cleaned. Hence, educating the masses about disposal becomes very important as it is the first step towards a cleaner environment.
With Bisleri’s Bottles for Change initiative, we aim to create awareness among the citizens about used plastic segregation, recycling of plastic bottles and the best practices towards a cleaner environment. This is done through a four-step process which begins with the teams educating citizens about the various methods that can be used to dispose of plastic. This is followed by the creation of a channel where plastic can be collected from various stakeholders. Next, it is made sure that the plastic is segregated by its type and the final step is to provide effective tools to recycle plastic and provide a non-hazardous and hygienic work environment to our plastic agents.
Through our initiative, we have reached out to more than 5 million people in the last 4 years and have helped in recycling over 6500 tonnes of used plastic.

7. COVID-19 pandemic has left millions of people jobless. What role is Bisleri looking to play in the Post-COVID recovery? Are there any plans to make up for the unemployment in the market?

Our Bottles for Change initiative is a sustainable and profitable model. It not only generates an opportunity for employment but also fetches a higher value for the plastic that is collected through this model. This model ensures a creation of network, where we work with various kabadiwalas and ragpickers for plastic collection. The plastic collected by the ragpickers they can earn up to Rs. 10-15/kg from the clean plastic. So our initiative not only helps the environment but also creates an opportunity for our green agents to collect plastic and earn a good income from it. This also ensures that they are able to support their families in addition to working in a hygienic environment and living a respectable life.
Through our rainwater harvesting initiative ‘Project Nayi Umeed’, many villages and farmers have benefited with the availability of water that enables them to grow crops throughout the year.

8. Mineral water bottle is often referred to as ‘Bisleri’ in many rural areas. The reach and recognition of a brand can go a long way in bringing about social transformation and change. What is the CSR vision of the company for making a difference at the community level?

As a trusted brand, our goal is to always give back to the communities who have supported us throughout and also to the environment. Since the inception of our initiatives, both Bottles for Change and Project Nayi Umeed, we have worked towards the welfare of over 1500 underprivileged women and worked with more than 10,000 families. For Bottles for Change, we work very closely with the ragpicker communities and the kabadiwalas.  We run study centres with an evening meal for Ragpicker’s kids. We aim to increase such centres across cities. Bisleri, through its Bottles For Change model, wants to give a better working condition to the Ragpickers community, recognize their immense contribution to waste management. On the other hand, through Project Nayi Umeed we have benefited 124 villages and irrigated 6,500 acres of land.
Through our Bottles for Change initiative, we aim to lead to a cleaner environment by making sure that the plastic that is used does not end up in dump yards, seas, oceans etc. And through Project Nayi Umeed we will continue to focus on conserving water in order to recharge groundwater and in turn enabling farmers to cultivate their lands multiple times a year.
Even in the future, we plan on expanding our efforts to reach out to more communities and to widen our impact.