Volkswagen India and International Association for Human Values (IAHV) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for a watershed-management project in Latur district, Maharashtra. The project aims to restore and sustain natural resources in the selected village cluster of Lasona, Indral, Wadmurambi and Ambanagar to create an integrated and sustainable natural resource management model. Volkswagen India has committed Rs 1.34 crore for this project which will use a mix of social, technical and financial strategies and hopes to impact more than 6,000 people.

The project will help the community to use and conserve natural resources like water and soil in a sustainable way by increasing groundwater levels and ensuring secured water supply for irrigation and domestic purposes. The project will also work on sustainable usage of available groundwater resources, drinking-water security, and increasing green cover in the watershed through social forestry and agroforestry.

The project is expected to follow a structured approach through community mobilisation and capacity building, artificial groundwater recharge, soil and water conservation, farmer field schools, afforestation, and leveraging government schemes. This will be done through community sensitisation and youth leadership training programmes, training programmes for gram panchayat members, framer trainings, exposure visits for farmers, creation of demonstration farms, agroforestry, social forestry, and recharge wells.

Before starting the project, the company engaged with the local communities. The action plan for the development of watershed has been drawn based on a study of geomorphology, geology of the basin, land use and land cover, and the aquifer and drainage network.

Pankaj Gupta, vice president– CSR and external affairs, Volkswagen India, informs CauseBecause that the company has been supporting water-conservation projects in drought-affected villages in Maharashtra for a long time now. Under Jalyukt Shivar Abhiyan, every year district administrations in the state share a list of villages along with the required list of water-conservation interventions, including construction of bandharas and gabion structures.

When the company received a request for Latur district, which was facing acute water shortages, it took up the task of construction of bandharas, desilting and widening of waterways, etc. IAHV was already working on a similar project in the Manjara river basin in Deoni taluk in Latur. The company, therefore, decided to do a mini watershed-management project encompassing these villages.

The company plans to reach out to more than 1,500 people through the community sensitisation and mobilisation programme to create a deeper sense of responsibility and ownership among them. The training and capacity building programmes have also been planned to reach out to around 500 farmers and educate them on resource-sustainable agriculture practices in order to conserve land, soil and water resources while improving incomes. Watershed-management activities will include planting drives to plant 23,000 saplings along with 165,000 cubic meters of water conservation.

IAHV has already started working on this project, with the geological survey—that will be the basis of many of the interventions—being complete and desilting of 47,660 cubic metres underway. This project also aims to engage employee volunteers in its various activities.