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10 Nov 2012

Teachers, farmers and scientists: meet the people behind the HSBC Water Programme

Meet the people behind HSBC's water programme

Volunteers conduct tests to gather scientific data on the East Kolkata wetlands. Photo: Earthwatch

During the next five years HSBC will work with three charities – Earthwatch, WaterAid and WWF – on a USD100 million programme to promote the sustainable use of water around the world, bringing together a groundbreaking mix of disciplines and expertise.

HSBC's Head of Corporate Sustainability, Simon Martin said: "This programme is about investing in relationships with some of the world's most respected non-governmental organisations to tackle issues that will benefit communities as well as promote a healthy environment for business growth.

Now the parents and children have good hygiene awareness and the attendance is good

"There are big numbers involved: with USD100 million support over five years, the programme will involve 1,500 small and medium enterprises and 100,000 colleagues. Nearly two million people will benefit from improved access to safe water and sanitation for the first time.

"It is truly fantastic to learn of the benefits communities have already seen as a result of the great work of Earthwatch, WaterAid and WWF."

Meet three of the people whose stories illustrate what the HSBC Water Programme is about.

The head teacher

With the support of the HSBC Water Programme, WaterAid will provide safe water to 1.1 million people and sanitation to 1.9 million people in Asia and West Africa.

Mary Narmarla, HSBC Water Programme

Mary Narmarla, Head Teacher at Joseph's School, Chinnavilai village. Photo: WaterAid

WaterAid provides safe water and sanitation, saving lives, improving health and long-term prospects for the communities involved.

Take education: children who have access to safe water and sanitation are less likely to get sick and better able to concentrate on classes. Access can be particularly important for girls. Where there are no facilities for menstrual hygiene, it is common for girls to drop out of school altogether once they reach puberty.

The Water Programme will help WaterAid build on the successes it has achieved in places such as Chinnavilai village, Tamil Nadu, India.

Thanks to WaterAid, children in the village now have school toilets. WaterAid and their local partner, the Association for Women's Education and Development (AWED), also developed a hygiene education programme in the village.

Mary Narmarla, the Head Teacher at St Joseph's School in Chinnavilai village, said:

"AWED and WaterAid put hand-washing facilities, toilets and a bore well in place, as well as installing the rainwater recharging system. AWED ran hygiene training to teach the children the importance of hand-washing, which now the teachers do every day; making sure they wash and check their nails. Now the parents and children have good hygiene awareness and the attendance is good. The work is permanent and lifelong."

The farmer

With the support of the HSBC Water Programme, WWF will work with local farmers, businesses and communities in five river basins in Africa, Asia and South America, promoting the sustainable use of water.

A farmer, HSBC Water Programme

A farmer with organic manure. Photo: Anshuman Atroley, WWF

The Ganga Basin is considered the food basket of India. Water is plentiful and the fertile lands encourage farmers to grow rice, wheat and sugar cane in large quantities.

Today, however, the over use of water for irrigation, combined with an increase in chemical use, has led to reduced groundwater levels and a decline in water quality.

As part of the HSBC Climate Partnership which ran between 2006 and 2011, WWF India conducted a study to understand where the most vulnerable areas were within the Upper Ganga Basin. Based on the study, WWF invited 650 farmers in eight villages in Uttar Pradesh to participate in a project to improve farming productivity and protect the environment. This work will continue under the HSBC Water Programme.

The farmers replenished the health of the soil by introducing more natural methods, such as using organic compost and crop rotation. They started to control their irrigation systems more effectively, which reduced the quantity of water they were drawing from the river. They also replaced chemical fertilisers and pesticides with organic fertilisers.

This is providing healthier food, enriching the soil with micro-nutrients and reducing the chemicals which find their way into the water supply. For the farmers, there's another kind of payback too – a reported average 50 per cent increase in profits.

The volunteer scientist

With the support of the HSBC Water Programme, Earthwatch will set up research projects in over 20 cities worldwide. Thousands of HSBC employees and their wider local communities will take part in this global citizen science project, working with local conservation partners to support, inform and transform policymakers' water resource management plans.

For the farmers, there’s another kind of payback too – a reported average 50 per cent increase in profits

East of Kolkata, in West Bengal, lies a complex wetland – a mix of small fields and fisheries – which also serves as the resting place for the city's sewage, where it naturally degrades, recycling its nutrients through the reed beds and marshes. This nutrient-rich aquaculture system produces fish, food and oxygen and is known to many as the 'kidneys of Kolkata'.

The rich diversity of the wetlands provides livelihoods for a great range of people from fishermen and eco-tourism guides.

It also provides a home for lush and abundant animal and plant life, including the native marsh mongoose, which hunts through the dense vegetation.

Under the HSBC Climate Programme, the HSBC volunteers have been working with Earthwatch and the local Nature, Environment and Wildlife Society (NEWS) to: record the flora and fauna; count the numbers of marsh mongoose, and assess the threats they face; monitor and the air, water and soil quality, and clear away rubbish. Similar projects will be established under the HSBC Water Programme.

The data collected has helped local authorities and conservationists work together to develop conservation and management strategies, including the East Kolkata Wetland Management Plan.

Biswajit Roy Chowdhury of NEWS Kolkata said:

"The citizen scientists from HSBC have not only worked with Earthwatch and the local Nature, Environment and Wildlife Society to collect crucial data to help us to preserve this area, but also built trust and confidence among the local fishing community, clubs and schools and helped to inform them about how to protect this wonderful habitat and fish sustainably."

Find out more about the HSBC Water Programme.

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