The Essar Foundation is investing in rural infrastructure to make basic amenities available to India’s villages
Infrastructure development requires extraordinary amounts of capital and resources. In India, infrastructure investment has more than doubled for 2007-12 over the previous five-year period (source: Secretariat for Infrastructure, Planning Commission).
With more than 60 per cent of India’s people living in villages, rural areas are critical to the nation’s growth. While there has been some progress in recent years, much remains to be done. Since public resources are limited, private participation becomes essential. The Essar Foundation, for its part, works closely with the government and other elected representatives, to provide basic amenities in rural areas near its operations.
- Assist communities to develop and enhance basic amenities
- Strengthen existing civic infrastructure
- Introduce new amenities
ACTIVITIES & PROJECTS
Provision of sanitation and drainage facilities
India has one of the world’s largest sanitation reform programs. In rural areas, sanitation coverage has risen and about 35 per cent of the population has access to toilets (source: The World Bank). The government’s Total Sanitation Campaign program focuses on information, education and communication, human resource and capacity development activities to increase awareness among rural people and to generate demand for sanitary facilities (source: Total Sanitation Campaign).
The Essar Foundation has instituted a program that supports the construction of household and community toilets to further the effort of creating a hygienic and healthy environment. The program works in conjunction with the Total Sanitation Campaign wherever possible. The Foundation also funds the building of drainage facilities, prioritizing areas where the government has no drainage systems in place.
Provision of common civic infrastructure
The Foundation’s infrastructure program helps construct and maintain approach roads, internal roads and other civic infrastructure in villages. It also enables the development of shared community spaces. The focus is on infrastructure such as homes for the elderly and community libraries, with the aim of building long-term capabilities. Local tribal leaders are also encouraged to be active in the program so as to better identify community needs.
The program also lends vital support in times of crisis. For instance, in 2009, following the wide-spread devastation of the Karnataka floods, Essar helped build more than 100 houses for flood-affected families.
Provision of safe drinking water
Provision of clean and safe drinking water is a vital aspect of a robust infrastructure system. The main problems in this area are of water availability and supply, poor water quality, financing of operation and maintenance costs (source: Planning Commission).
The infrastructure program regularly provides 1 million liters of water to communities around its areas of operation. It enables access to safe drinking water by ensuring:
- Cleaning of wells and provision of tap water
- Deepening and de-silting of ponds
- Installation of hand pumps, bore wells and desalination plants.
Rural electrification project
Although the government has promoted several initiatives and there has been progress in extending the national grid, 56 per cent of rural homes still do not have access to electricity. Of those that do, many choose not to connect because of poor reliability and insufficient supply (source: Empowering Rural India: Expanding Electricity Access by Mobilizing Local Resources, World Bank Report, 2010).
The Foundation enables people in villages to access the government’s electricity distribution network including wiring, transformers and other equipment. It provides rural households access to solar electricity which is both low-cost and energy efficient. So far 173 households in rural Odisha and Madhya Pradesh have benefited from the program. The Foundation has also installed street lighting at Raniganj (West Bengal).