Groundwater Levels Plummet Around Coca-Cola Bottling Plant

Coca-Cola Violating Fundamental Human Rights by Denying Access to Water

by India Resource Center
September 4, 2009

Kala Dera, Rajasthan, India (September 4, 2009): Groundwater levels in Kala Dera, the site of Coca-Cola's controversial bottling plant in India, have plummeted 5.83 meters (19 feet) in just one year between May 2007 and May 2008, according to government data obtained by the India Resource Center from the Central Groundwater Board.

Such a precipitous drop in a single year is unprecedented and has never been witnessed in Kala Dera.

The area of Kala Dera has also been declared a drought area by the government last week, adding to the water shortages in the area.

Adding further to the severe water crisis as a result of dropping groundwater levels and drought are Coca-Cola's bottling operations. The company reaches peak production capacity in the summer months - using the most amount of water - exactly when the water shortages for the community are the most pronounced.

Farmers and the community in the Kala Dera area rely largely on the groundwater resource to meet all their water needs, the same source of water used by Coca-Cola for its bottling operations.

Coke Sucks
Groundwater levels are expected to drop even further this year as a result of the failed monsoons and Coca-Cola's continued operations. As of September 3, 2009, the area had received only 50% of the normal rainfall for the season, according to government data. The monsoon season, which contributes to more that 80% of the annual rainfall, is expected to end by September 15.

"The Coca-Cola company is denying our fundamental human right to water by continuing to extract groundwater from a rapidly falling aquifer. Every drop of water that Coca-Cola extracts from the groundwater is water taken away from the children, women and men who are unable to meet their basic water needs, leave alone the farmers who are seeing their crops fail," said Mahesh Yogi of the Kala Dera Sangharsh Samiti, a local community group in Kala Dera opposing Coca-Cola since 2002. "Coca-Cola has contributed significantly to the falling water tables and they must shut down and leave Kala Dera," he continued.

The community in Kala Dera has challenged Coca-Cola's bottling operations in the area, holding the company responsible for creating water shortages. The current drought and sharp drops in water levels have reinvigorated the community's opposition to Coca-Cola and several protests are being planned.

"Coca-Cola's operations in Kala Dera are an assault on the community. The community has primary rights over groundwater, and meeting basic water needs such as drinking and for agriculture have to be met first. We have drought in Kala Dera and accessing water is extremely difficult for people. Coca-Cola has no place here. They must shut down," said Sawai Singh of the Jan Sangharsh Samiti who has petitioned the Rajasthan state government, including Chief Minister Ashok Gehlot, seeking closure orders on the bottling plant.

In 2008, a Coca-Cola funded study of the company's bottling operations in the area confirmed the concerns being raised by the community. The study found that Coca-Cola was a significant contributor to the water crisis in the area, and that the company had built and started its plant in Kala Dera in 2000 despite the groundwater in the area being declared as "overexploited" by the government in 1998. Coca-Cola has refused to make public the Environmental Impact Assessment it says it conducted prior to building the bottling plant which assured the company of good water conditions in the drought prone, overexploited groundwater area.

The study, conducted by the Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), was a scathing indictment of Coca-Cola's operations in Kala Dera. The study recommended that Coca-Cola shut down the Kala Dera bottling plant, relocate the plant or bring in water from outside the area to meet its water needs, making it clear that the community needs for water and Coca-Cola's needs for water could not coexist.

Coca-Cola has refused to follow the recommendations of the study, which the company funded entirely and helped design considerably.

"Coca-Cola's continued operations in Kala Dera are criminal. Water levels have plummeted because of Coca-Cola, the rains have been deficient, the area is experiencing drought, people have no drinking water, farmers have no water to cultivate their land and have lost their livelihoods, yet Coca-Cola continues to withdraw millions of liters of groundwater to make Coca-Cola. And if those weren't enough reasons to shut down the plant, Coca-Cola's own study has recommended closure of the bottling plant. All the signs point towards one resolution - shut down the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Kala Dera," said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center, an international campaigning organization that works with the community in Kala Dera to oppose the plant.

Coca-Cola's Outrageous Claims

In spite of the rapidly deteriorating water conditions in Kala Dera, Coca-Cola has claimed that the groundwater levels are rising in the area because of its rainwater harvesting initiatives and that the company already recharges six times the amount of water it takes from the ground in Kala Dera.

Such claims are dismissed as nonsensical by the community as well as government officials and water experts consulted by the India Resource Center. The India Resource Center has looked into Coca-Cola's claims of water recharge in Kala Dera and concluded that Coca-Cola's claims have no basis in reality.
  1. When Coca-Cola is asked to verify the actual numbers behind its claim of recharging six times the amount of water in Kala Dera, Coca-Cola admits it does not have metering mechanisms to measure how much water is recharged.
  2. Using their 2004 actual groundwater usage in Kala Dera, Coca-Cola's claims of recharging six times the amount of groundwater it uses in Kala Dera translates into recharging about 1.3 billion liters of water annually - just in Kala Dera alone - a fantastical number by any measure. It is enough water to meet the basic drinking water needs for a million people - for an entire year! If Coca-Cola's claims are to be believed, there would be no water shortages in the area.
  3. Precipitously falling groundwater levels in Kala Dera, particularly since Coca-Cola began operations in Kala Dera in 2000, suggest a massive depletion of groundwater, and not a recharge or replenishment, as Coca-Cola claims. Coca-Cola's claims contradict government data on groundwater levels.
  4. There are not enough rains in the Kala Dera area to meet such ambitious water recharge numbers given the number of rainwater harvesting structures set up by Coca-Cola. Kala Dera receives less that 600 mm of rain annually under normal circumstances and it is a drought prone area. Nine of the last twenty six years have been drought years.
  5. About 80% of the rainfall in Kala Dera falls in a matter of 3 to 4 days, according to Dr. M. S. Rathore, a natural resource expert on Kala Dera who is deeply skeptical of Coca-Cola's claims. Under such rainfall patterns, Coca-Cola's claims become even more exaggerated because it suggests that they are recharging just over 1 billion liters of water in just a matter of four days. Such a feat is impossible, especially in Kala Dera.
  6. All of Coca-Cola's rainwater harvesting structures in and around Kala Dera are in "dilapidated" conditions, according to the 2008 TERI study the company paid for. A visit to random Coca-Cola rainwater harvesting structures in July and August this year by the India Resource Center found most of them to be ill maintained and not working, even though Kala Dera receives the vast majority of its rainfall in July and August.

"If Coca-Cola is so confident about its rainwater harvesting initiatives, why don't they just use the rainwater they harvest to meet all their production needs?" asked Mahesh Yogi.

For more information, visit www.IndiaResource.org


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