In July 2019, when Asha Amonkar and Shirish Puranik, the then president and past president of RC Pune Karvenagar, RI District 3131, met the CSR chief of Syngenta, P S Jagadeesha, seeking CSR funding from the company, the latter said he’d come on board provided the service project the club did with these funds would be related to water. This caveat was because the company deals in agri products.
With this condition in mind the club conducted a survey of the remote villages in the Bhor and Velhe taluks of Pune district, by talking to the village leaders and school teachers. During the survey, the club realised that the students in the zilla parishad schools in these remote villages did not have access to safe drinking water. All of them carried water bottles to schools, but quite often the water in the container was insufficient to quench their thirst during school hours.
8 ATMs in 9 villages will benefit 4,000 people
The schools did have water tanks but these stored untreated water from nearby river and streams. This water was unsafe for drinking and resulted in several students falling ill from waterborne diseases, thus affecting their attendance and learning, apart from physical health. The club leaders decided to use the CSR funds to provide a sustainable facility that would ensure safe drinking water to the children, year after year.
With a CSR partner available, the club called for quotations, carried out an evaluation of multiple suppliers and testing of water samples to ascertain the quality of water to decide on the correct type of water purifier, and finally zeroed in on the 25 LPH UV water purifier model, normally used in households, says Sachin Amonkar, who is at present the director of IT in the club. It is not an RO unit that is suitable for groundwater, he explains. “In these villages the river water can be accessed and this kind of water purifier is suitable for river water.”
A total number of 52 such purifiers, each costing around ₹26,000, were installed at 52 schools in villages in both the taluks, with Syngenta contributing CSR funding of ₹14.56 lakh. To ensure that the villagers had a stake in the water purifiers which would now give their children safe drinking water, “we asked them to contribute funds for the pipeline from the river to the school. It was not big money — just around ₹4,000. We believe that the participation of villagers is critical for the success of welfare projects as they then feel a sense of ownership with our project. We also involved the village seniors and school teachers in this project.”
The ₹52 lakh project at nine villages in Velhe taluk is mainly funded by CSR money from Duroshox, with ₹7 lakh given by RID 3131
The result of this water project is that many of the children who trek to schools from their homes in mountainous areas, sometimes a distance of 3–4km, now have adequate safe water to quench their thirst when water from their water bottles runs out. Amonkar explains that in many villages for students living far away from the school there is no transport facility, such as a bus available, and to reach the school, walking is the only option.
On the delay in implementing a project for which discussion had started in 2019, Amonkar, whose wife Asha was the club president that year, says that several times the work on the project was disrupted due to Covid. Both the lockdowns also affected them badly as the schools were closed and neither the staff nor the workers were available.
But despite several uncertainties “we’ve completed the project and the water pumped to the schools from the river/streams is now purified and becomes safe for the children to drink. In all, 2,500 children will benefit from this water purifying project. To ensure sustainability and long-term usage of the purifiers, the club has done an AMC with the installers for maintaining these units for two years,” he adds.
The project was inaugurated at the end of 2021 by the then RID 3131 DGND Shital Shah, who complimented the club for meticulous and detailed planning and persisting with the project despite so many drawbacks brought in by the pandemic. Syngenta CSR head Jagadeesha and club president Gauri Kulkarni were present at the inaugural of the project in the school located in Gunjavane village at the foothills of Fort Rajgad, the capital of Chatrapati Shivaji for almost 25 years.
Said Jagadeesha: “I really appreciate the work undertaken by Rotary for the betterment of communities in the remote villages of our country. Our company would never have known these places, if we had not associated with RC Pune Karvenagar. We would like to continue working with Rotary in the future as well.” Gunjavane school principal Hemant Kamble and the village seniors also expressed their gratitude and thanked the club members for supporting the school for the past three years.
In another RID 3131 project, a cluster of nine villages in Velhe taluk, about 90km from Pune, is being nurtured by RC Pune Riverside, RI District 3131, which is carrying out eco-friendly village development to provide safe drinking water to the villagers and also augment water for irrigation in these villages.
52 water purifiers, each costing ₹26,000, were installed in 52 schools
Explaining the project, Umesh Kumar Jalan, president-elect of the club, says this ₹52 lakh project is mainly funded by CSR money, with ₹7 lakh being raised by the district. While surveying these villagers, the club members found that the water being consumed by some 4,000-odd people in a clutch of nine villages in Velhe taluk is highly contaminated. “Their main source of water is from the river, streams or stored rainwater and we were shocked to find that they do not even filter the water they drink with a cloth, leave alone using candle filters.”
This exposed them all the time to waterborne diseases. So the club members decided to provide water dispensing ATMs in these villages to give the rural people access to safe water for drinking and cooking.
“We set up eight ATMs for nine villages and this eco-friendly project will benefit some 4,000 people,” says Jalan. He explains that in every transaction 20 litres of safe and filtered water from the ATMs can be drawn by using pre-loaded ATM cards. “They are just like the bank ATM cards and the local panchayat leaders, who have also been given the responsibility of maintaining and running these ATMs, can decide whether to charge ₹3 or 5 for every withdrawal of 20 litres.”
The ATMs with inlet and outlet water storage tanks, Aqua Plus-make filtration units, with fabricated closed cabins, were installed at centrally located places in the villages.
Apart from these ATMs, to help the farmers get regular supply of water for their irrigation needs, the club members have also put up 20 farm ponds through rainwater harvesting. Jalan explains that these were made available mainly to marginalised farmers to enable them to plan a second or third crop in a year. The tank’s storage capacity is between 300,000 and 500,000 litres of water. Availability of more water in these ponds have also given these farmers the opportunity to augment their income by rearing fish.
The corporate Syngenta, an agri product company, gave ₹14.6 lakh of its CSR funds
The next sustainable and eco-friendly project was to set up 60 biodigester gas plants which are sustainable and long-term because they can generate gas from cow dung. A biogas plant is a facility that provides oxygen-free conditions where anaerobic digestion can occur. Simply put, it’s an artificial system where you can turn waste into sustainable energy and fertilisers with a positive fallout on the environment. Cooking gas is generated by feeding cow dung and water to biodigester tanks, or pits, which are connected through a gas tube to the gas stove placed in the house. This avoids burning of wood, makes cooking faster, thus saving time. Its main benefit is villagers and their livestock getting a clean, hygienic and eco-friendly environment to live in, adds Jalan.
The bulk of this CSR project costing ₹52 lakh has been funded by past president of the club Neeru Goel’s own company Duroshox, while ₹7 lakh has come from the district contribution, said club president Ganesh Natarajan. It was completed in September 2020.
RC Pune Riverside club members are further evaluating the needs of the villagers and the additional support the club can extend to them “so that we can truly develop an eco-friendly village atmosphere.”