Coke Deprives Rajasthan Village of Water
By Sandipan Sharma
Hindustan Times
May 7, 2003

Jaipur, May 7: Just like the royalty told starving Parisians during the French Revolution to make do with cake when they had no bread to eat, the state government seems to expect villagers of Kala Dera near Jaipur to drink Coca Cola and beer when they have no water.

Ever since multinational giant Coca Cola set up a bottling plant in the village, all wells and ponds in the area have dried up. "Water levels have fallen more than 150 feet in the area since the bottling plant came up. Apart from depriving us of drinking water, the declining levels have ruined the agriculture-based economy of the area," say the villagers.

Apart from the economy, everyday life too has been severely affected. "Four years ago, water could be found at a depth of less than 50 feet in the area. Now the level has dropped enormously.

The villagers have sent a memorandum to the CM, asking that the plant be shifted.

Shyam Lal Kumawat, 48, whose five-acre field adjoins the plant, says the 14 wells dug up by Coca Cola are drawing hundreds of gallons of water, seriously lowering the water table.

The soft drink company, which, ironically, is funding water conservation projects in the Thar, says it is not responsible for the depletion of the water table. "The plant was set up after we were allotted a fixed quota of water by the state government. We are not using even 20 per cent of that quota," said Sunil Sharma, of the MNC's communications wing.

The government, however, admits it was a mistake to allow a water-guzzling plant here. "We have to reconsider our policies," an industries department official said.

But the misery of the villagers in unlikely to end. The government has now sanctioned a beer distillery in the area.

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