15 Village Councils Reject Coca-Cola Plans

Opposition Grows to Coca-Cola's Expansion Plans and Current Operations

For Immediate Release
April 18, 2013

Varanasi (April 18, 2013): Fifteen village councils (panchayats) have called upon the government to reject Coca-Cola’s application for expansion because it would further worsen the water conditions in the area.

They have also called for an end to Coca-Cola’s current groundwater extraction in Mehdiganj in Varanasi district in India.

The fifteen village councils are located within a five kilometer radius of the Coca-Cola bottling plant and are affected by Coca-Cola’s bottling operations. The letters include the panchayat of Mehdiganj, where Coca-Cola’s bottling plant is located.

Panchayats, or village councils, are an elected body at the most local level – villages.

Coca-Cola has applied to the central and state government to increase its groundwater usage from the current 50,000 cubic meters annually to 250,000 cubic meters annually for its bottling plant in Mehdiganj.

The panchayat letters, signed by the head of the village council (sarpanch), hold Coca-Cola’s groundwater extraction responsible for the extraordinarily difficult water conditions in the surrounding villages. The letters note that access to drinking water and water for farming has been made very difficult, and water hand pumps, wells, bore wells and ponds have dried up in the area – leading the government to declare the area’s groundwater resources as critical. Furthermore, the letters state, all new government hand pumps and bore wells have been banned by the authorities as a result of the water scarcity in the area.

The letters ask the Central Ground Water Authority to reject Coca-Cola’s application to expand under any circumstances, and given the drastic groundwater conditions in the area, to stop the current groundwater extraction by Coca-Cola.

Groundwater resources in Mehdiganj have fallen precipitously since Coca-Cola began bottling operations in the area, dropping 7.9 meters (26 feet) in the 11 years since Coca-Cola started its bottling operations in Mehdiganj. In the 11 years prior to Coca-Cola beginning operations in Mehdiganj, groundwater levels had risen 7.95 meters.

Groundwater resources in the Arajiline block, where the Coca-Cola factory is located, have been declared as “critical” by the Central Ground Water Board in 2009, and significant restrictions on groundwater usage have been put in place as a result.

A 2012 report by the Central Ground Water Board, India’s primary groundwater monitoring institution, labeled Coca-Cola’s current groundwater extraction in Mehdiganj as “excess” and found the company’s much touted water conservation measures to be ineffective.

“There is grave injustice taking place here as villages and farmers are left without water while Coca-Cola continues to mine groundwater, and that too for profit. Communities have primary rights over the use groundwater, and we have decided that it is in the best interest of the communities to not allow Coca-Cola to expand and also to put an end immediately to its current groundwater use,” said Mukesh Kumar, Sarpanch of Nagepur panchayat.

Communities affected by Coca-Cola’s mining of groundwater around its Mehdiganj plant have vowed to increase the pressure on the government to not only reject Coca-Cola’s application for expansion but also to end its current groundwater usage which has led to a water crisis in the area.

“Planning to increase its water usage five-fold in a highly water stressed area is irresponsible and reprehensible. Coca-Cola thinks only from a business continuity perspective, and all its grandiose claims of being water stewards fail completely when put to the test on the ground,” said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center, an international campaigning group. “If Coca-Cola were genuine about their sustainability claims, the company would surely not propose to expand in a water stressed area, and stop their current groundwater mining, as the village councils have asked.”

The fifteen Gram Panchayats and Sarpanchs who have sent letters are:
  1. Mehdiganj – Usha Devi
  2. Bhikaripur – Doodhnath Yadav
  3. Dholapur – Svayam Rajbhar
  4. Bhadrashi – Kalpnath Rajbhar
  5. Deora – Rajesh Kumar
  6. Nagepur – Mukesh Kumar
  7. Benipur – Sadanand
  8. Kallipur – Tejnath Patel
  9. Chandapur – Savitri Devi
  10. Kachariya – Anju Devi
  11. Monglavir – Sidhnath Patel
  12. Babhaniyav – Ramprakash Singh Patel
  13. Rakhona – Rajesh Narayan Yadav
  14. Kundariya – Santosh Kumar Giri
  15. Ganeshpur – Sanjoo Devi

Arajiline Block Panchayat President, Shri Mahendra Singh Patel, has also signed the letter.

For more information, visit www.IndiaResource.org


Nandlal Master, Lok Samiti +91 94153 00520 (India)
Amit Srivastava, India Resource Center +1 415 336 7584 (US)


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