Coke factories depleting the water levels in India.
For every bottle of Coke that I gulp down, I didn’t know there is a much huge price attached to it. A price that people who live in the places where the Coca-Cola factories are planted have to pay for it.
Coca-Cola, the Atlanta based company has set its eye on the highly populated Indian subcontinent. It has plans to invest around $5 billion by 2020. But, this expansion and aim aren’t going to be easy for them to achieve, owing to the objections that it face from the activists. They are worried about lowering water levels in the regions where the factories are set.
The company has stopped manufacturing at three of its plants in India but on a temporary basis as it has to face the ire of activists who oppose these factories due to depleting groundwater.
The three regions are Meghalaya, Andhra-Pradesh and Rajasthan. Local communities and activists have waged a war that lasted for a decade against this powerful giant, which manufactures fizzy drinks that many of us believe are not healthy.
Isn’t it obvious that India would be an easy market to capture where the incomes levels are rising and a majority of our youth are turning towards a more cosmopolitan life with a high global exposure?
Coca-Cola has a factory at Kaladera in Rajasthan and it has faced a strong revolt from the groups who claim that the company has diverted the water to the factory and tapped the already small share of water. This has affected the farmers and their crops. The activists claim that Kaladera is practically left with no water. They have to dig 400 to 500 feet deep to get water. But, two decades ago they had to dig 100 feet.
Today, the question is on emergence and if the factory doesn’t stop manufacturing, the question would further intensify.
The closure was also recommended way back in 2008 by TERI i.e. The Energy and Resource Institute as it would further worsen the water situation in the region.
Even in Tamil Nadu, locals have protested and stopped the opening of a new bottling plant. They believe it would again rob the groundwater in the region. The government has cancelled the land allotted to the company (Hindustan Coca-Cola beverages) at Perundurai in Erode district.
Another revealing fact is that Coca-Cola bottling plant that is placed around 150km west of Perundurai known as Plachimada which is in Kerala was shut down by the state authorities in 2004. The reason behind this tough decision is the toxic pollution that the plant was causing. The company is liable to pay $47 million as damages.
The scenario was the same in Uttar Pradesh in 2014 when the company was denied permission when local authorities faced protests from localites. The story was then repeated in 2014 at Charba in Uttarakhand state.
However, the Coca-Cola officials say that they have shut down due to falling demand. They have retained the license to produce at the Kaladera unit whenever the demand picks up, so that they can utilize the remaining capacity.
Who will pay for the damage that has already been done to the community owing to the negligence of this huge MNC?
Do we have a system which makes companies accountable for harming the environment and community?
How did the authorities give permission to the company to set plants without analyzing the after-effects?
How will the farmer continue his farming with dropping water levels?
Basically, in agrarian nation, the farmer has to be protected and it is for the benefit of our economy too to do so.
All said and done as more and more companies look at India as a lucrative market and set manufacturing units here but we cannot be negligent and complacent.
Strict systems and execution of laws are a necessity to safeguard the society and environment. Timely action can save us from further damage.