Water Use, Coca-Cola and India

A news item on the Planet Ark web site reported that British-based risk consultancy company Maplecroft has compiled a report which aims to alert companies to investment risks based on a “water security risk index”.

The index found that – judged by factors including access to drinking water, per capita demand and dependence on rivers that first flow through other nations – African and Asian nations had the most vulnerable supplies.

According to the news item, companies including Anglo American, Rio Tinto, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Marks & Spencer, Coca-Cola and Devon Energy were among those seeking to reduce water use.

Coca-Cola, in particular, caught my eye because I recalled a campaign in India about the company’s appalling behaviour.  A quick search and I found the site I was looking for: India Resource Center.  The search results also contained an entry for Coca-Cola India with the description “Official Website Coca Cola India, the corporation nourishing [how?] the global community with the world’s largest selling soft drink concentrates since 1886.”  Hmm.

Anyway, back to India Resource Center who have long been campaigning against Coca-Cola.  The site’s campaigns page contains this description of the “assault” (their word) by Coca-Cola:

Communities across India are under assault from Coca-Cola practices in the country.  A pattern has emerged as a result of Coca-Cola’s bottling operations in India.

  • Communities across India living around Coca-Cola’s bottling plants are experiencing severe water shortages, directly as a result of Coca-Cola’s massive extraction of water from the common groundwater resource.  The wells have run dry and the hand water pumps do not work any more. Studies, including one by the Central Ground Water Board in India, have confirmed the significant depletion of the water table.
  • When the water is extracted from the common groundwater resource by digging deeper, the water smells and tastes strange.  Coca-Cola has been indiscriminately discharging its waste water into the fields around its plant and sometimes into rivers, including the Ganges, in the area.  The result has been that the groundwater has been polluted as well as the soil. Public health authorities have posted signs around wells and hand pumps advising the community that the water is unfit for human consumption.
  • In two communities, Plachimada and Mehdiganj, Coca-Cola was distributing its solid waste to farmers in the area as “fertilizer”.  Tests conducted by the BBC found cadmium and lead in the waste, effectively making the waste toxic waste.  Coca-Cola stopped the practice of distributing its toxic waste only when ordered to do so by the state government.
  • Tests conducted by a variety of agencies, including the government of India, confirmed that Coca-Cola products contained high levels of pesticides, and as a result, the Parliament of India has banned the sale of Coca-Cola in its cafeteria.  However, Coca-Cola not only continues to sell drinks laced with poisons in India (that could never be sold in the US and EU), it is also introducing new products in the Indian market.  And as if selling drinks with DDT and other pesticides to Indians was not enough, one of Coca-Cola’s latest bottling facilities to open in India, in Ballia, is located in an area with a severe contamination of arsenic in its groundwater.
Banner at Coca-Cola Museum Photo: A. Samulon/India Resource Center

Banner at Coca-Cola Museum Photo: A. Samulon/India Resource Center

Back in July 2007, the India Resource Center reported on an announcement by Coca-Cola that they were investing in a water conservation project.  The report mentioned that:

“the Coca-Cola company has an extremely unsustainable relationship with water, a precious and increasingly scarce natural resource.  The company’s insatiable thirst for water – the company used 290 billion liters of water in 2006 alone, enough to meet the entire world’s drinking water needs for 10 days – does not even begin to tell the whole story.  The Coca-Cola company converted two-thirds of the freshwater it used into wastewater.  The company used the vast majority of the freshwater it uses for cleaning in its production process, and the result is that the Coca-Cola company is a champion of turning perfectly fine (and increasingly scarce) freshwater into wastewater.”

In April 2010, the India Resource Center reported “It is only a matter of time before the Coca-Cola company will be held financially and criminally liable for their operations in water-stressed areas in India, Coca-Cola shareholders were told today at the company’s shareholder meeting in Atlanta.”

An India Resource Center news item in early June 2010 stated “Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez singled out Coca-Cola and Pepsi among transnational companies that would have their water use reviewed by the government as part of a widening state control on the economy.”

David M. Davison

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6 Responses to “Water Use, Coca-Cola and India”

  1. I don’t like the way the public happily accept CocaCola as sponsors for events such as the world cup and then think that those who do criticise the big corps are somehow spoiling the party. EDFs Team Green Britain almost makes me want to throw up its so cynical! I could go on and on and on…..

  2. This is a nice blog message, I will keep this idea in my mind. If you add more video and pictures because it helps understanding 🙂

  3. Hi, thanks for the news, nice page,
    Best regards, Maik

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