By Neeraj Akhoury
Rising population and climate change have led to water becoming a scarce resource across the globe. Rightly so, the theme of World Water Day 2020 was centred on climate change to create a much-needed awareness about water and how the two are inextricably linked. Now, World Environment Day 2020 aptly focuses on biodiversity, where water conservation plays an integral part. Vulnerable biodiversity needs to be adequately protected because co-existence of all species goes a long way in striking a balance in the ecosystem.
NITI Aayog admits the country has been facing problems related to water resources for some time now. Millions suffer due to issues related to inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene. The country’s water sources are getting drained, and those that are not, are getting polluted. It is a known fact that the country’s water table is depleting with each passing year, and the severity of this is reflected in the increasing number of failed attempts to dig bore wells. Anticipating water issues in the future, the government has formed the Jal Shakti ministry that aims to link rivers from different parts of India to resolve problems of drinking water and irrigation; plans also include supply of piped water to every household by 2024.
That said, India Inc should also shoulder a part of the water management responsibility. Optimisation of water usage for industrial purposes, deletion of obsolete process technology and deployment of the right recycling practices must all be part of their plan. Water resource administration is imperative for sustainable development. The two major resources required for any manufacturing activity are energy and water. However, the undesirable output of these inputs is pollution by way of contaminants.
So, an industry`s sustainable growth plan must include cutting down on resource consumption and the prevention of negative environmental impact. One can also look at corporate water stewardship as an opportunity to identify water-linked business risks and understand its impact on the ecosystem.
Indian firms will persist in using water as an important input in their manufacturing cycle. The challenge is how to achieve an equilibrium in the equation of need and yield, between input and output? How does a corporate attain a ‘Water Positive’ status that ties in with two seemingly disparate activities—consistent profit and sustainable development? India Inc. has no choice but to walk the talk, or else India’s imminent water crisis shall devour them all.
With industrial growth, the demand for water has gone up further, especially for some industries like beverages and construction. Hence, there is a dire need to adopt effective measures to conserve water, including by the cement industry in India. Here, the emphasis should be on the use of technology as a water conservation tool to achieve sustainability.
One such method is the installation of rooftop rainwater harvesting systems. Ambuja Cement has introduced this as an extension of its technical services to customers and business associates in small towns through its off-line network and digital platforms. Interestingly, a meagre 100 cm rainfall annually on a 1000 square feet roof can provide a full year’s supply of water for drinking and cooking purposes for a family of five.
Another technological intervention that can be considered by cement is the Modular Curing Solution (MCS) technique that has, over the past eight years, conserved 423 million litres of water across 35,224 construction sites across India, thus promoting sustainable construction. This technique entails the use of specially designed plastic sheets that prevent water loss due to evaporation and protect the surface against strong winds, low humidity and high temperatures.
Like the mission to reduce carbon footprint, every corporate must also give equal importance to water management and resource growth as part of its sustainability plan. It involves evaluating the total volume of freshwater required for operations and then proactively cutting down that number, either by reducing wastage or by replenishment. Reducing water footprint and usage of freshwater in the production or supply of goods and services must be given top priority.
MD & CEO Ambuja Cement. Views expressed are personal