METRO Water Initiative: 3-year-project in India comes to planned end

24 March 2022

In northern India, METRO and the One Drop Foundation are working together to provide safe access to clean water for nearly half a million people. After 3 years, this joint project is now coming to its planned end.

3-year project in India comes to its planned end

3-year project in India comes to its planned end,
Source: Raïsa Mirza for One Drop Foundation

COVID-19 brought its own set of challenges, but the impact work continued

In 2019, METRO launched a joint project in the Indian province of Sheohar in cooperation with the international foundation One Drop as part of the METRO Water Initiative. The original goal was to provide 250,000 people with safe access to clean water and sanitation, and raise awareness of waterborne diseases, hygiene and the careful use of water for agricultural purposes. With the start of the second project year, it was even possible to double the scope of the project by scaling to the 2 additional districts of Madhubani and Gaya – reaching as many as half a million people in the 3 districts of the northern state of Bihar.

By the end of 2019, more than 85,000 people had already benefited from the project. A total of 110 water connections had been installed, 14 schools had received access to clean drinking water and sanitation facilities, and numerous compost pits and household latrines had been set up. In collaboration with local artists, more than 30 multidisciplinary shows, 160 street theater plays, and 120 film screenings were also held, creatively communicating the importance of water and hygiene. However, with the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, One Drop Foundation's work on the ground has been significantly hampered and the Project team had to adapt its actions to a set of new challenges.

Between October 2020 and September 2021, One Drop Foundation’s projects under the umbrella of the METRO Water Initiative have helped install 127 new community water points in the district of Sheohar, complete with informational signboards, guidelines on key hygiene behaviours and the proper usage and maintenance of water points, and handwashing infrastructure that ensures the hygienic withdrawal of water. A total of 27,600 people now benefit directly from these new installations. In Gaya and Madhubani 4,691 people were reached through community water infrastructure, 11,601 through institution-level WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) infrastructure and 28,736 indirectly.

In Sheohar, new water and sanitation facilities were installed in 18 schools, directly benefitting 5,962 students and staff. Female bathrooms were equipped with menstrual hygiene management facilities. Likewise, 26 schools in Madhubani and Gaya saw their drinking water facilities improved, serving 7,291 students and staff. 3 schools now have functional handwashing stations, improving hand hygiene for 1,155 students. Respectively, a total of 419 staff and children have now access to drinking water facilities in all 13 Anganwadi centers. Project Bihar has reached a total of 276,084 beneficiaries directly and 140,996 indirectly with access to water, sanitation services and hygiene provisions, ensuring equitable and sustainable access to water, sanitation and hygiene for all.

By the end of June 2022, the project activities in Sheohar district will be completed. The projects in the districts of Gaya and Madhubani are planned to be finalized by the end of June 2024. The initiative aims to reach nearly half a million people.

The Impact Project in India

‘Social Art for Behaviour Change’ creates knowledge

‘Social Art for Behaviour Change’ creates knowledge,
Source: Kannagi Khanna for One Drop Foundation

For the people in the 3 districts of Sheohar, Madhubani and Gaya the joint project of METRO, One Drop Foundation and their partners provides sustainable and safe access to water and sanitation and thus a better life: fewer diseases transmitted by contaminated water, decreasing child mortality, better maternal and newborn health and regular school attendance – especially for girls who often stay away from schools without sanitation facilities during their menstruation. Above all, the key to success is that One Drop Foundation has a lasting positive impact on people's everyday lives on the ground with its 'Social Art for Behaviour Change™' (Youtube Video) approach. As part of the joint project in India, One Drop Foundation focused primarily on 3 lasting behavioral goals:

  • Hand washing with soap at critical times
  • Use of household latrines
  • Proper storage and handling of clean water

In addition, local farmers in particular are sensitized through training in water saving techniques and waste management and supported through entrepreneurial development. One Drop Foundation also ensures that access to (micro)credit for water supply and sanitation facilities (new household toilets and expansion or upgrading of existing toilets) are improved.

The Need for the Project in India

The international wholesale company METRO launched the METRO Water Initiative back in 2017. The stated goal of this initiative is to draw the attention of METRO’s more than 17 million customers and over 95,000 employees worldwide to the scarce resource of water and the responsible use of it. In 2019, METRO launched a joint impact project with the One Drop Foundation, which was established in 2007 by Cirque du Soleil founder Guy Laliberté, as part of the METRO Water Initiative. The 3-year project in northern India was made possible through the support of committed suppliers: Barilla, Bolton, Campofrio, The Coca-Cola Company, Danone (in 2019), Diageo, JohnsonDiversey (in 2019), GlaxoSmithKline, Henkel (Beauty Care and Laundry & Home Care), Lavazza, Mars (Wrigley and Uncle Ben’s Rice), McCain, Mondelez (in 2019) PepsiCo, Pernod Ricard, Podravka, Reckitt Benckiser (RB), SC Johnson and Unilever. More than 1.2 million EUR were raised by METRO, METRO's customers and the participating suppliers for the project in India during in-store campaigns around the annual World Water Day in March. One Drop Foundation matched the raised amount and ensured close cooperation with governments and development banks. In total, this collaboration has raised 5.3 million EUR and each euro donated has leveraged up to 10 EUR of impact.

Across India, access to clean water and sanitation is scarce. Over 800 million Indians face water scarcity with ‘per capita water availability close to or lower than the official threshold for water scarcity as per the Falkenmark Index’ (Niti Ayog 2019). 82% of rural households lack access to piped water supply (ibid.). In addition, the quality of available water is often alarming - about 70% of water in India is classified as contaminated, according to Murthy and Kumar cited in the 2019 Composite Water Management Index report. In 2021, a Parliamentary Panel found that over 48,000 rural habitations have contaminated water due to concentrations of fluoride, iron, salt, nitrates, heavy metals and arsenic exceeding specified limits. Contaminated water affects the lives of millions in India and among them women and children are the most vulnerable. More than 100,000 children die every year from diarrhea alone according to the National Health Mission in the country. Studies have shown that the state of Bihar has the highest rate of diarrheal diseases among children under the age of five (NFHS-5 2019-20). Also, the infant mortality rate in the state of Bihar is higher than the national average.

“We are proud that through this impact project we make a real and, above all, sustainable difference in the lives of nearly half a million people,” says Veronika Pountcheva, Senior Vice President Corporate Responsibility METRO AG. “It shows once again what we are capable of when we join forces.”

“Bihar is particularly affected by the global water crisis,” comments Jean-Louis Dufresne, CEO of the One Drop Foundation. “And I am deeply proud of the true impact we have in this region, thanks to our collaboration with METRO, its suppliers and customers. This initiative enables an environment for positive change and the impact it has on communities goes far beyond water. Together, with our joint project, we turned water, art and emotions into action.”

The Stories behind
How METRO and One Drop Foundation are changing lives for good is documented by our online magazine MPULSE: A project that empowers and encourages people – and is changing many lives

METRO is a leading international wholesale company, with food and non-food assortments, which specialises in serving the needs of hotels, restaurants and caterers (HoReCa) as well as independent traders (Traders). Around the world, METRO has some 17 million customers who benefit from the wholesale company’s multichannel mix. This allows customers to choose between shopping at one of the large-scale local stores or delivery (Food Service Distribution, FSD) – all digitally supported and connected. At the same time, METRO MARKETS is an international online marketplace for professional customers that has been growing and expanding continuously since 2019. “Acting sustainably” is one of METRO’s corporate principles. METRO has been listed in various sustainability indices and rankings for many years, including FTSE4Good, MSCI, CDP and the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. Inclusion in such indices confirms METRO’s high level of engagement in the areas of climate protection, the avoidance of plastic and food waste as well as the procurement of more sustainable product assortments. METRO operates in more than 30 countries and employs over 95,000 people worldwide. In financial year 2020/21, METRO generated sales of €24.8 billion. For more information, please visit, our online magazine.

About the One Drop Foundation
The One Drop™ Foundation is an international philanthropic organization created by Cirque du Soleil and Lune Rouge founder Guy Laliberté with the vision of a better world, where all have access to living conditions that allow empowerment and development. Its mission is to ensure sustainable access to safe water, sanitation, and hygiene for communities facing extreme barriers through innovative partnerships, creativity, and the power of art. Together with its partners, the One Drop Foundation deploys its unique Social Art for Behaviour Change™ approach designed to promote the adoption of healthy water, sanitation, and hygiene-related behaviours and empower communities. For this to be possible, the One Drop Foundation creates novel fundraising initiatives supported by a visionary community of partners and donors. The One Drop Foundation is celebrating 15 years of turning water into action, with projects that will soon have improved the living conditions of over 2.3 million people around the world. To learn more about the One Drop Foundation, subscribe to its newsletter at

Safe access to water improves the lives of nearly half a million people in Bihar

Safe access to water improves the lives of nearly half a million people in Bihar,
Source: Kannagi Khanna for One Drop Foundation