Conservation: how to do it right

Picture_20210727-081538_1 Picture by Aqua.

Save water. That's a very common phrase we often see all over the media. Although it may sound cliché, actually the short phrase has a really deep meaning. To put it into numbers, 71% of the Earth is covered in water, but only 3% of them is freshwater. With such a small percentage and the growing population today, it only makes sense that this precious resource must indeed be saved.

Unfortunately, some people still point their fingers to others on who is responsible for water conservation, be it government, mine owners, hydrologists and so on. It is sometimes forgotten that it is not a one-man-job, but in fact, each one of us is the one whose lives depend on water. So rather than pointing out our fingers to one another, why don't we start inspiring one another?

At the minute, let us draw inspiration from Danone-AQUA, the pioneer of bottled water in Indonesia. In commemorating World Nature Conservation Day this month, we spoke to Cut Endah, the water stewardship and sustainable manager at Danone-AQUA regarding the importance of preserving and conserving water. Joining the company in 2016, Endah has been involved in numerous conservation projects all over Indonesia. 

Water Conservation for the Earth

Established in 1973, Danone-AQUA is one of the leading companies for bottled drinking water in Indonesia. Recognizing its huge role, the company set their commitment into four aspects namely climate, circular economy, agriculture and last but not least: water.

As their commitment to water conservation, Danone-AQUA has done various measures, combining both green infrastructure and grey infrastructure.

"We have an annual target to plant trees and this varies on the watersheds where we operate. So far, there are approximately 21 factories (of Danone-AQUA) which are located in 17 different watersheds all around Indonesia," Endah said.

Based on Danone-AQUA's report in 2018, they have planted 2,677,204 trees all around Indonesia. In addition to that, Endah also told us that Danone-AQUA has also built infiltration wells, water ponds, bio pores, sediment pits, small dams and rainwater harvesting systems as their conservation efforts. She revealed that the benefits of these measures are not limited to infiltrate and conserve water, but also to bring a sustainable impact to the local communities. 

Conservation Effort in Rejoso Watershed

Located in the Pasuruan Regency of the East Java Province, the Rejoso watershed faces numerous issues. Prior studies revealed that the declining area of forest cover and the changing land use on the upstream and midstream areas have caused a reduction in infiltration rate. Further, the unsustainable farming practices there also caused soil degradation and water pollution.

On one hand, located in Rejoso is one of the largest water springs in Indonesia, namely Umbulan Spring. This spring is a part of Indonesia's strategic plan to meet the water demand for 5 regencies/cities: Gresik, Sidoarjo, Pasuruan City, Pasuruan Regency and Surabaya. As important as it is, unfortunately, the discharge of Umbulan Spring has decreased over the years. Even worse, Danone-AQUA found a lot of wasted water from the non-stop flowing water springs all over Rejoso Watershed that are drilled by the local community for personal use.

"Around Rejoso, we found numerous water springs that flow 24 hours non-stop. There is a total of approximately 600 water springs and this number has been increasing annually (due to uncontrolled artesian well drilling)," Endah said.


All these issues then motivate Danone-AQUA to start their conservation efforts in Rejoso Watershed by running a program called "Rejoso Kita."

"Rejoso Kita initiative was started in 2016 as an effort to help to protect and preserve Rejoso watershed in Pasuruan Region of the East Java Province by developing an integrated model of watershed management through public-private partnerships," Endah explained.

The program is divided into two phases, with the first phase was successfully done in 2016-2018 and the second phase has started in 2019.

Rejoso Kita Phase I (2016-2018)

The first phase of Rejoso Kita was executed by a consortium coordinated by Danone-AQUA, Social Investment Indonesia Foundation (YSII), World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), Collaborative Knowledge Network (CK-Net), The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and other partners supported by the Danone Ecosystem Fund.

The focus of Rejoso Kita Phase I was to conduct studies in Rejoso Watershed, which were hydrogeological and socio-economic studies, implemented Pilots and in parallel initiated the establishment of the multi-stakeholder forum.

For the hydrogeological study, the objective was to assess the water balance in Rejoso Watershed. As the result, the characteristics and conceptual model of the watershed were successfully obtained. Danone-AQUA also analyzed the land use around Rejoso Watershed as well as its social and economic mapping to get a clear picture of the current condition there.

From these studies, Danone-AQUA decided to make a pilot of a science-based payment for environmental services scheme as a co-investment model among related stakeholders such as the government, private sectors, and farmers. This was to ensure the sustainability of farming practices were adopted in the upland and more trees were planted. The pilot successfully engaged 174 farmers in 12 different groups and 7 villages, with a total area of 106.6 Ha. 

Picture by World Agroforestry.

In line with Rejoso Kita Program, Danone-AQUA also included institutional strengthening in the program. Endah told us that this was important to make sure the sustainability of the Rejoso Kita Program. A multi-stakeholder forum namely Forum Peduli DAS Rejoso was established as an integrated governance for the preservation and protection of the Rejoso watershed

Rejoso Kita Phase II (2019-2022)

After the first phase was completed, Endah further explained to us that Danone-AQUA felt the strong need to continue the program.

She said, "At the end of 2018, we felt that we had not addressed the real issues in Rejoso Watershed. Therefore, we decided to continue the second phase (of Rejoso Kita Program) that will be focused on the downstream area."

In the second phase, with the support from Danone Ecosystem Fund, Danone-AQUA together with the World Agroforestry (ICRAF), the Indonesian Agricultural Environment Research Institute (IAERI) and the Government of Pasuruan District pay more attention to the inefficient water use in the downstream areas of Rejoso Watershed.

There are 3 main focuses for this phase which are to reduce the water balance gap inclusively in the Rejoso groundwater basin, manage water as an investment for catalyzing behaviour-change towards water efficiency and implement integrated water resources and watershed management governance. 

 Picture by World Agroforestry.

Collaboration: Key of Conservation

Tree planting has been part of Danone-AQUA commitment to the conservation effort, that very commitment brought them to collaborate with Jejak In, a start-up that focuses on the acceleration of climate actions. In their collaboration, Jejak In helps Danone-AQUA to monitor their trees' growth and tag location digitally. This was implemented for the first time in Citarum-Harum Program. For this innovation in watershed conservation monitoring, Danone-AQUA received an award from the Ministry of Environment and Forestry of the Republic of Indonesia in 2017.

"In Danone, we believe that collaboration is the key," Endah said.

She continued, "We realized that we live with many people. Therefore, all of our conservation efforts will be challenging to implement without the involvement of stakeholders such as the government, local NGOs, local people, public and religious figures. We are also trying to engage with other private companies to involve in our programs."

Hope for Water Conservation

In commemorating World Nature Conservation Day this month, Endah expressed her hope for water conservation, notably on its implementation in Indonesia.

"I hope there is a genuine follow-up for our conservation programs. For instance, on tree plantings, our responsibility should not stop only after we plant the trees. I hope we can do more than that by monitoring its existence and the benefit to the local people," she explained.

Equally important, Endah also revealed her hope in a more integrated system of conservation. "I see our (conservation) efforts are still scattered. I hope the Ministry of Environment and Forestry can provide a platform that can map all the conservation programs that have been carried out by both individuals and companies."

"I hope we can be more integrated when carrying out our initiatives and (start to) do collaboration together so that a much greater impact will be perceived," she concluded. 

About the Speaker

Graduated from Sriwijaya University majoring in Marine Sciences, Endah started her career in 2008 as a consultant in a Dutch Consulting firm. Through working on Rehabilitation and Reconstruction post-Aceh Tsunami project, Endah met her mentor who introduced her to Water Resources Management. This led her to start a career in the water sector as she saw that only a small number of people in Indonesia pursued their careers in water stewardship. Endah joined Danone in 2016 as a Water Stewardship and Sustainable Manager and has been involved in various Water Stewardship Programs such as Rejoso Kita in Pasuruan.

Written by: Keylin Vindyra and Carrina Lim. (The Water Agency)

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