The impending climate change and the rapidly depleting water tables have serious direct and indirect implications that would lead to social and economic issues across highly vulnerable countries such as India.

Novartis has been one of the early signatories of the United Nations Global Compact and the CEO Water Mandate and has been committed to reducing our water consumption by half in all our operations around the world by 2025. By 2030, we aim to be water neutral in all areas of our operations, while actively enhancing water quality wherever we operate.

​India’s growing vulnerability to intense droughts owing to climate change has aggravated its already grave water crisis. The country has 18% of the world’s population, but just 4% of its water resources.[1] Depleted water tables lead to greater dependence on uncertain monsoons. In 2023, the country recorded the hottest February in the last 122 years which has sparked debates on possible heat waves across the country during the summer months, which could lead to lower crop yields and concerns about lower projected rainfalls during the monsoons.

On World Water Day, March 22, 2021, we joined hands with the non-profit National Agro Foundation to launch an integrated watershed development project in five villages near Hyderabad to help address water scarcity in the Telangana region of India, one of the world’s most affected countries.

A watershed is an area of land with a common set of streams and rivers that all drain into a single larger body of water, such as a river, a lake or even an ocean.

It is an interdependent web of living organisms that inhabit a geographic area and depend on it for clean soil, air and water, and it is an entire ecosystem that thrives on it. This integrated approach is essential to promote an inclusive development, one that maximizes economic and social welfare without compromising vital ecosystems. For instance, the project aims to install drinking water and sanitation facilities at local schools, provide livelihood support (e.g., backyard poultry, livestock for milk) to landless families through women self-help groups, and plant 3,000 trees.




​Importantly, the program aims to be very cost-efficient, enabling the conservation of 75 liters of water for USD 1, the equivalent of buying around four litres of bottled water in India.


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Since water scarcity severely impacts lives and livelihoods, the community-based watershed project has adopted an integrated model to rejuvenate a vital ecosystem and promote inclusive development.

Projected impact from the project

  • 50-60% increase in water availability 
  • Creation of an additional 50,000 m3 water storage capacity  
  • Cropping intensity boosted by 20-30% 
  • Groundwater table augmented by 10 feet (3 meters) 
  • Positive impact on more than 1,000 families through increased availability of water   
  • 60 tons of carbon sequestered every year through tree plantation 
  • Increase in farmer income by INR 5,000/acre


The aim is to maximise the economic and social upliftment of the villages, and also train villagers to create a multiplier effect.

“Community watershed programs are among the most impactful strategies to address interlinked issues, but they require empowering communities to use natural resources efficiently to be effective,” says Dr. M. R. Ramasubramaniyan, Executive Director, National Agro Foundation. “This is why the program will provide capacity-building to farmers, in particular training on advanced water-saving techniques and methods to increase agricultural productivity sustainably.”  

Over a year since its launch, the project has produced commendable results:

Integrated Watershed Development Project: Key achievements at a glance

Rainwater Harvested (m3)

60,000 m3

Increase in groundwater level (feet)

10 feet

Number of families benefited


Increase in farmer Income in INR per acre

INR 8,100 per acre

Soil health check-up

500 samples

Increase in crop yield (%)


Increase in water availability (%)


In particular, the impact is visible in three areas:

Water and natural resource management

Water availability in the project villages and hamlets has increased by 30% to 40% following the creation of a 50,000-cubic-metre storage capacity and conservation of 60,000 m³ of rainwater in 2022.

Before the start of the project

Water channels - Before start of project

After the rejuvenation project

Watershed Revived Image-1

In 2022, 8 check dams were constructed and 22,750 m³ of channels, cleared. The project also rejuvenated 7 ponds.


As a result, around 2,000 families have access to safe drinking water and water for agriculture today. This has improved crop intensity by 20%-30% and enhanced farm incomes, besides leading to carbon sequestration.

Musi River

In addition to the watershed project, as an active member of the Pharmaceutical Supply Chain Initiative, Novartis is supporting the State of Telangana’s efforts to revitalize the Musi River, a vital water source to the Hyderabad area which has been impacted by poor wastewater management practices.

Agricultural activities

The project has promoted holistic improvement in farm practices by organising farmers’ study tours, conducting 3,000 man-hours of training on agriculture, and holding two poultry training and animal health camps each in 2022.

Best practices were demonstrated in 10 paddy fields this year, up from five the last season. Twenty-five farmers replicated these best practices in the 2022 season.


The project also undertook soil check-ups of over 500 samples. The improved use of micronutrients has led to a 25% increase in paddy yields from 18 quintal/acre to 22.5 quintal/acre, improving farmers’ income by Rs 8,100 an acre.



Moreover, farmers have saved on labour costs following the introduction of cost-effective CONO and cycle weeders.

The farmers have also reduced their fertiliser costs by producing vermicompost and organic formulations, resulting in an additional income of Rs 8,000 per compost cycle from the sale of excess compost, and Rs 5,000 a season from organic formulation.

Livelihood support for women

The project has empowered over 31 women by setting up a self-help group (SHG), which promote entrepreneurship and provide financing. The SHG has disbursed INR 13 lakhs so far, which women have used to start new or expand existing businesses like grocery shops, clothing stores, tailoring, and rearing buffaloes.


The project has also improved the quality of living for the community by building public toilets and providing water filters in schools, conducting health check-ups, and installing an automatic weather station.