Water Conditions Worsen Around Coca-Cola Plant, Declared “Over-Exploited”

For Immediate Release
November 18, 2014

San Francisco: Government authorities in India have declared the groundwater around Coca-Cola’s bottling plant in Mehdiganj as “over-exploited” – a category indicating the highest level of stress on the water resources.

Over-exploited indicates more water being extracted from the aquifer than replenished – a highly unsustainable state. The bottling plant is located in Arajiline block of Varanasi district in the state of Uttar Pradesh. The block is the most water stressed area in the entire district.

The Central Ground Water Board, the primary groundwater monitoring agency in India, classifies groundwater into four categories – safe, semi-critical, critical and over-exploited.

Coca–Cola began operations in Mehdiganj in 1999, when the groundwater was categorized as safe. In 2009, the government changed the category to critical.

The bottling plant has been the target of local communities who have campaigned to close the plant because of the water shortages soon after Coca-Cola began operations. Groundwater levels have dropped sharply since the company began operations in June 1999.

Coca-Cola’s operations in Mehdiganj are in serious trouble, and the latest declaration of the water resources as over-exploited does not bode well for the company’s future in Mehdiganj.

In August 2014, Coca-Cola’s application to expand its plant in Mehdiganj was rejected by the government as a result of sustained pressure by the campaign. Coca-Cola has already fully built the expansion at a cost of $25 million, and it sits idle and will never ever operate.

Coca-Cola’s existing plant was also shut down by regulators on June 6, 2014 because it did not have all the required permits and violated pollution norms. The bottling plant obtained an interim “stay order” from the court while the case is heard.

The campaign to hold Coca-Cola accountable has succeeded in getting the government to introduce new and more stringent regulations on the use of groundwater by such industries across India, particularly in water stressed areas. In guidelines released by the government in November 2012, beverage companies are not allowed to operate in over-exploited areas, and restrictions are placed on such plants in other areas.

However, the guidelines apply only to new and expansion plants, and the campaign has been asking that the guidelines also apply to existing industries.

“As the single largest user of groundwater in the area, Coca-Cola bears major responsibility for the water resources becoming over-exploited from safe, and that too at the expense of water for residents and farmers,” said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center.

“If Coca-Cola and its investors had any conscience and sense of responsibility, they would stop bottling operations in Mehdiganj immediately because water for drinking and farming is far more important than water for Coca-Cola,” continued Srivastava.

The campaign has been working to introduce new rules that would prohibit operations of water-intensive industries in water stressed areas of India, such as in Mehdiganj.

For more information, visit www.IndiaResource.org


Amit Srivastava T: +1 415 336 7584 E: info(AT)IndiaResource.org

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