DCB Bank, a new-generation private sector bank is actively involved in advancing socio-economic causes and fulfilling the aspirations of individuals – especially the vulnerable communities – to adopt sustainable behaviour and practices and transform the communities.
A case in point is the Bank’s thrust to create sustainable livelihood opportunities and sustainable development by improving the availability of groundwater in Banki block, a rural area in Cuttack district of Odisha. This initiative over the last two years has brought about a transformation to the lives of the communities in fourteen villages benefitting 2,186 farmers and 8,123 households.
Many of the dwellers in Banki block comprise tribals and indigenous groups, of which 90% live below the poverty line. Agriculture and animal husbandry are the primary sources of income, followed by petty trade and manual labour. The settlements in Banki block are small and alternative livelihood opportunities are difficult to come by. This causes migration – no doubt caused by the less-than-ideal economic conditions prevalent in the area. The communities also had to contend with deteriorating availability of water and supporting resources such as lack of reliable irrigation facilities that made the crop cultivation difficult round the year. Potable water for drinking and use at home too posed a serious challenge.
Much in advance of the Covid-19 pandemic, DCB Bank began the ear-to-the-ground assessment to understand the local issues. This was done by one of the Bank’s project implementation NGO, Concern India Foundation. In early 2020, the Bank readied plans to initiate the ‘Livelihood Improvement Project’ (LIP) through integrated watershed management in two blocks of Cuttack district – Banki and Athagarh, respectively. The objective was to create long-term livelihood opportunities through better water resource management, soil conservation with the acceptance and participation of the communities. The project started with the threat of Covid-19 not on the horizon but not for long, soon enough the pandemic was upon us and the communities and project team were resolute and toiled through the challenging phase.
The project involved restoration of six water harvesting structures (WHS) in Banki block, cleaning of seven ponds in Banki and Athagarh to create sustainable water source, increased the water-holding capacity to 44,88,29,844 cubic liters. The initiative also included the installation of a 1,800-litre water tank, installation of two electric motors, plantation of one thousand trees and the construction of two changing rooms along the banks of the ponds for the women residents. Besides, the project involved upskilling of the village residents with farming techniques such as growing two major cereal crops in a year, vegetable cultivation, which resulted in improved soil fertility, more natural produce, and more income.
A heart touching narrative spotlights the impact for a community from Salabani hamlet in the Kadalibadi Gram Panchayat, Banki Block. Salabani hamlet was dire need of potable water and had no choice but to lift water from a fetid pond. The community used to witness frequent outbreak of skin rash and boils when they would bathe in the pond. The Bank installed a hand pump for them. This project made available a reliable source of potable water for the community for the very first time in their lives.
Mr. Murali Natrajan, Managing Director of DCB Bank said, “DCB Bank partners with communities to effect sustainable improvement to the socio-economic and environment status of their habitat. Income enhancement opportunities enable them to live a better life. The ‘Livelihood Improvement Project’ aimed to work alongside underprivileged communities to create sustainable livelihood opportunities and successfully mitigate the impact of depleted water resource, and climate change. The initiative thus far has directly benefited around 40,000 individuals and has had a positive impact for another 34,000 indirect beneficiaries. We take solace that the Bank’s sustainable development initiative is proving to be a successful model of partnering with CSR project implementation experts and the project beneficiaries. Over time with the steady improvement in the year round availability of water, the livelihood of the inhabitants of the beneficiaries and has turned for the better.