Businesses should wise up to water risks, Delhi summit highlights

Speaking at the workshop "Meeting the water challenge" on Sunday are (from left) Mr Nadir Godrej, Managing Director of Godrej Industries and Chairman of Godrej Agravet, India, Mr Ashok Trivedi from I-Gate Software, US, Mr Ravi Singh, Secret
Speaking at the workshop "Meeting the water challenge" on Sunday are (from left) Mr Nadir Godrej, Managing Director of Godrej Industries and Chairman of Godrej Agravet, India, Mr Ashok Trivedi from I-Gate Software, US, Mr Ravi Singh, Secretary-General and CEO of WWF India, Ms Naina Lal Kidwai, Country Head India and Director of HSBC Asia-Pacific, HSBC, India, and Dr Glyn Davis, Executive Director of Global Programmes, WWF-UK. 

ELECTRICITY utility company Indiabulls, which is setting up a power plant in the western Indian city of Nashik, is facing protests from local farmers who say it is using up water meant for crops.

Coca Cola had to close its bottling plant in the southern Indian state of Kerala after activists accused it of depleting the local water table.

The above two examples, although not new (the first took place in January this year, the second in 2007) were cited at a workshop to underline the need for industries to acknowledge the risks associated with water.

The workshop "Meeting the water challenge" kicked off the second edition of The Growth Net 2014 on Sunday in New Delhi.

Businesses are becoming aware that scarcity and flooding will affect their bottomlines, but they also need to understand the fact that water is a shared resource and the way it is used impacts growth and livelihoods, the participants said.

"We treat water as merely something that is available for drinking and is available for producing products.

"However, water is not just that, it is much more. Through various means, polluted water, especially the one that carries heavy metals, is getting into our food chain, that is, vegetables and grains.

"These toxins, over a period of time, affects intelligence and leads to fall in production and hence the GDP," said Mr Ravi Singh, CEO, WWF-India, who chaired the three-hour discussion among 10 participants, including members from the corporate, environmental and NGO sectors, and the members of the audience.

Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), a non-profit organisation, that opened its India office last year is planning to start a programme that will see top Indian companies disclosing how they use water in their factories.

"But there is a lot of resistance from companies to reveal this information," Mr Damandeep Singh, Director, CDP - India told The Straits Times.

The company came out with its first water report last week called "Safeguarding India's Water Resource - The business case for corporate water disclosure in India", where it argues that the information can help in accelerating action on water-related issues.

While companies acknowledge the importance of addressing the way they source and use water, a survey conducted by CDP among 29 Indian companies last year, showed the awareness is not complete.

"In the questionnaire, some companies ticked the option, 'Yes, we are facing a water shortage', but in the drop down menu they said, 'No, we will not face a water risk next year," said CDP's Mr Singh.

Water has emerged as a key topic of discussion at the three-day conclave in New Delhi, which ends on Tuesday. A session on tackling the water crisis in emerging economies is slated for Tuesday, the last day of the event.

The discussions take on even more meaning coming as they do on the heels of World Water Day and the Indian festival of Holi which is marked with water.

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