Coke 'Drinks India Dry'
Critics claim beverage giant's
bottling plants are interfering with irrigation in drought-ridden
Coca-Cola has been heavily criticised for causing extreme water shortages
in developing countries where supplies are scarce.
New evidence from campaign group War on Want appears to show that
Coca-Cola has had a serious impact in communities in several Indian
states and in Latin America.
War on Want researchers have uncovered areas in Rajasthan where farmers
have been unable to irrigate their fields after Coca-Cola established
a bottling plant. The War on Want report also revealed similar problems
in Uttar Pradesh. Already well-known are incidents in the southern
Indian state of Kerala, where a Coke plant was forced to close two
years ago after it was alleged to have contaminated local water.
Coca-Cola is the largest beverage company in the world, and used 283
billion litres of water in 2004. For every 2.7 litres of water it
takes, it produces one litre of product. Its profits last year were
just under $15bn and it has a market capitalisation of over $100bn.
But the firm faces a string of environmental and health issues. It
has also endured some embarrassing PR disasters, as when it was forced
to withdraw a premium brand of bottled water from the UK after it
emerged that it was processed tapwater.
Later this month, the National Union of Students will vote on whether
to ban Coca-Cola vending machines from student union facilities as
concern rises over the firm's impact on the environment.
Several areas in India and Latin America are challenging Coca-Cola's
abuse of water resources. Louise Richards, chief executive of War
on Want, said: 'This report exposes the grim reality behind Coke's
She added: 'Across the world, cases of environmental damage, exploitation
of water resources and abuses of workers' rights are shockingly common.
It's time that directors of multinationals held to account - but that
will only happen when politicians accept that the current free-for-all
is failing the world's poor.'
The attacks came as critics rounded on Coca-Cola for sponsoring the
World Water Forum, currently taking place in Mexico. The forum is
a place where water firms, technicians, environmentalists and consultants
discuss how to improve conditions for the 1.1 billion people who do
not have access to safe water and sanitation, but it has come under
attack for being a talking shop that achieves little.
Campaigners are concerned that big projects funded by institutions
like the World Bank fail to achieve results, and want spending concentrated
on smaller community-based projects.
A Coca-Cola spokesman said: 'We have a genuine commitment to adequate
and equitable access to water. We have reduced our water-use ratios
in India by 24 per cent between 2000 and 2004. We have installed rainwater
harvesting systems in 26 of our plants so far.'
The firm says it is partnering with the Indian Central Groundwater
Authority, local governments and communities to combat water scarcity
and the depletion of ground water levels by expanding rainwater harvesting.
FAIR USE NOTICE. This document contains copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. India Resource Center is making this article available in our efforts to advance the understanding of corporate accountability, human rights, labor rights, social and environmental justice issues. We believe that this constitutes a 'fair use' of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use,' you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.