Request for Proposals on “strengthening integrated water management in West Bengal”

Deadline for application: 25 March 2023

Location: West Bengal, India

About Oak Foundation  

Oak Foundation commits its resources to address issues of global, social, and environmental concern, particularly those that have a major impact on the lives of the disadvantaged. Through our grant-making, we support others to make the world a safer, fairer, and more sustainable place to live. With offices in Europe, India, and North America, we make grants to organisations in approximately 40 countries worldwide.   

The India Programme supports efforts to sustainably improve the lives of marginalised people in West Bengal, a state in the eastern region of India on the Bay of Bengal. These include workers in the unorganised sector, Indigenous communities known as Adivasis, and adult and child migrants, whose entitlements and rights have been neglected for decades.   

Our primary grant-making focus centres on two sub-regions within West Bengal where all three groups live – the tea gardens of North Bengal and the Sundarbans coastal region.   

Our secondary grant-making focus is on the other districts in West Bengal that are home to one or more of the three priority groups – unorganised workers, Indigenous communities, and migrants. The India Programme has the following strategic pillars that support and promote: 

  • access to entitlements and services 
  • access to justice 
  • amplification of community voice 
  • strengthening of systems 
  • sustainable livelihoods and climate resilience 

Grant Portfolio 

As of January 2023, the portfolio comprised of 32 grants in West Bengal, of which 38% are focused on the Sundarbans and 22% in tea garden districts. The rest are in the other districts of the state. The grants address the root causes for inequities and injustice. They aim to build active voice and leadership of the primary constituents and stakeholders.  

Background for this call for proposals 

Site visits across the state have underlined the chronic deficit of water as a formidable challenge faced by communities. The challenge is exacerbated mainly by the impact from climate, overexploitation of ground water, pollution of water bodies, and the loss of traditional knowledge on water preservation. The shortage of the required quantity and quality of water for potable and economic purposes has resulted in high levels of water stress in communities. When designing interventions, there is a need to innovate while, at the same time, refer to existing good practices that address availability, sustainable use, quality, and equitable access. Equally, it requires a shift from mega-projects that tend to overlook the local characteristics and knowledge, which result in only short-term relief from water-related stress. There is an urgent need to respond to this challenge by developing a range of participatory and integrated strategies that combine traditional knowledge with modern practices that rely on localised data generated through scientific means.   

This is a call for proposals from individual organisations and/or a group of organisations to strengthen integrated water management systems in districts of West Bengal (preferably with some focus on either the tea gardens or the Sundarbans as well) which are experiencing higher levels of water stress. The end results will enable communities to achieve water security (both consumption and productive purposes). Oak Foundation will allocate approximately USD 1 million for a multi-year programme to strengthen integrated water management in West Bengal.   

How to apply 

Please provide a cover note of 500 words to describe the applicant(s), the relevant experience(s), and interest. Please also provide a write up of not more than 2,500 words to describe a multi-year programme that involves piloting/scaling up of solutions driven by local communities and leveraging government resources. In the write up, mention the role of local communities and elected bodies to establish, upscale, and sustain the interventions. Please keep the description simple and direct and use full forms of abbreviations wherever applicable.  

Refer to some of the following aspects in the proposal (please note that a single proposal may not cover all the aspects):  

  • Harvesting traditional practices and generating local produced scienitific data to improve water conservation, quality, and availability   
  • Harvesting freshwater   
  • Recharging aquifers  
  • Combining soil and water conservation with improving plant cover 
  • Developing micro-irrigation structures  
  • Addressing water quality 
  • Protecting streams / preventing pollution of water bodies  
  • Promoting sustainable use of water (low-cost recylcling and upcycling) 

Please email your requests to by 25 March 2023. Proposals submitted during this period will be shortlisted based on a review by the Oak team and two external subject experts. Elements like rationale for choice of locations and communities, environmental and social feasibility, and the sustainability plan will be key parameters for shortlisting the proposals. Only shortlisted applicants will be asked to submit a detailed proposal. Any query with respect to the programme description can be sent to this email address.  

Who can apply 

Organisations having documented experience of working on some of the above-mentioned thematic areas through strategic partnerships with government and private agencies.  

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