Coca-Cola Destroys Indian Villages, Despite Warning by Coca-Cola Study
San Francisco: As the summer of 2009 approaches, the village of Kala Dera in north
India is bracing itself for yet another season of acute water shortages
- thanks largely to Coca-Cola.
As it is, accessing water is a daunting task for the villagers of
Kala Dera. Kala Dera is located in the desert state of Rajasthan -
one of the driest parts of India. Kala Dera has experienced eight
years of drought in the last twenty five years!
In 1998, the Central Ground Water Board, a government agency, classified
the groundwater in Kala Dera as overexploited - declaring that the
existing demands on the groundwater were not sustainable.
Yet two years later, in the year 2000, Coca-Cola started its bottling
plant in Kala Dera.
It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what happened next.
Groundwater levels dropped dramatically, and wells ran dry, farmers
did not have enough water to have successful crop yields, and women
now had to walk miles longer just to access potable water. Over 60
villages in the vicinity of the Coca-Cola bottling plant felt the
dramatic impacts once Coca-Cola started its operations in Kala Dera.
According to government figures, the water tables in Kala Dera fell
nearly 10 meters in just the first five years of Coca-Cola's operations!
And to add insult to injury, Coca-Cola extracts the vast majority
of the water in the summer months - exactly when the water shortages
are the most acute for the villagers, even without Coca-Cola.
The deteriorating water conditions in Kala Dera could have been prevented
Coca-Cola should never have located its bottling plant in a drought
prone area which had already been declared as overexploited by the
It was malfeasance on the part of Coca-Cola to locate its plant in
such a water-deficit area, and it was a grave mistake on the part
of the Indian government to allow the plant to be located in Kala
Community Allegations Confirmed by Coca-Cola
The community of Kala Dera has challenged the Coca-Cola bottling plant
since 2003, making it very clear that the company's operations had
exacerbated the water crisis in the area, and that Coca-Cola must
shut down its plant.
And the community assertions were confirmed in 2008, and that too
by a study funded by the Coca-Cola company itself!
In 2006, the International Campaign Against Coca-Cola forced Coca-Cola
to agree to an independent assessment of its operations in India.
The assessment - paid for by Coca-Cola - was released in January 2008.
The assessment was a scathing indictment of Coca-Cola's operations
The assessment, conducted by the Energy and Resources Institute (TERI),
an ally of Coca-Cola, saved its strongest language for Kala Dera.
The assessment confirmed that the Kala Dera "plant is located in a
water-scarce, drought-prone area" and that the water extraction by
Coca-Cola has "significant impacts" on Kala Dera.
The assessment made four recommendations to Coca-Cola for the Kala
Dera plant - including shutting down the plant - all of which made
clear that Coca-Cola must not use the groundwater in Kala Dera anymore.
The four recommendations were:
- Transport water from the nearest aquifer that may not be stressed
- Store water from low-stress seasons
- Relocate the plant to a water-surplus area
- Shut down this facility
Needless to say, the community of Kala Dera welcomed the recommendations.
Meeting the recommendations - Coca-Cola not using the groundwater
in Kala Dera - would mean significantly less demand on the groundwater,
which would ensure that the community needs for water as well as the
farmers needs for water were met first.
One summer has already passed and Coca-Cola has continued to extract
water from the Kala Dera aquifer, completely dismissing the recommendations
of the study that it paid for itself!
Once again, the village of Kala Dera and surrounding villages have
had to do with less water, resulting in extreme hardships to the community,
and in particular the women and farmers.
Such is the arrogance and impunity of Coca-Cola in India, and it is
accompanied by a public relations spin that can be only described
as bizarre and offensive.
Responding to the media about shutting down the plant in Kala Dera,
Coca-Cola India's CEO said, "Walking away is the easiest thing we
can do. That's not going to help that community build sustainability."
Instead, the Coca-Cola company has decided to support drip water irrigation
in the area working with fifteen farmers! Yes, fifteen! Kala Dera
itself has a population of 10,000 people, with upwards of 80% engaged
It is time, we think, to remind Coca-Cola that they were not invited
to build sustainable communities in India, and neither to support
farming best practices. This is simply not their expertise, and India
will not be served well with Coca-Cola advising us on sustainable
development and agricultural best practices.
It is time for Coca-Cola to acknowledge the conclusion from the assessment
that the Kala Dera "plant's operations in this area would continue
to be one of the contributors to a worsening water situation and a
source of stress to the communities around."
If Coca-Cola is serious about sustainable communities, as it announces
to everyone through its "Corporate Social Responsibility" initiatives,
then the company would meet one of the recommendations made by the
study it funded.
Meeting both Coca-Cola's and the community's needs for water in Kala
Dera are not sustainable.
One has to go, and it must be Coca-Cola.
Amit Srivastava is the Director of India Resource Center, an international campaigning organization based in San Francisco, USA.
SEND a FAX to the CEO of Coca-Cola - Respect Communities in India, Shut Down Kala Dera Plant!
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