Report Finds High Pollution Around Coca-Cola, Pepsico Plants
NEW DELHI: Your daily dose of cola could be poisoning the lives of
communities living near soft drink manufacturing plants, according
to a study by Hazards Centre.
The NGO found high levels of toxic chromium and other pollutants in
the soil and water around five Coca Cola and Pepsico plants in northern
The study was released two months after a Kerala government panel
ruled that Coca Cola must pay Rs.216 crore in compensation to villagers
affected by pollution, and a depletion of groundwater resources, by
its Plachimada bottling plant.
Now, five other communities — Mehdiganj and Ghaziabad in Uttar Pradesh,
Kaladera and Chopanki in Rajasthan, and Panipat in Haryana — are also
claiming that the soft drinks plants in their vicinity are responsible
for their woes.
Could file PIL
“Our water is being contaminated...and the level of water has also
dropped,” says Sharafat Ali, a Ghaziabad farmer who is also a member
of the Azadi Bachao Andolan movement. “Our people are suffering from
skin problems, stomach sickness,” he said, speaking at the release
of the study in the capital on Friday.
Mr. Ali says villagers will first complain to local authorities, and
could consider filing a PIL in the High Court later.
“We found that chromium was the most common pollutant,” said Dunu
Roy, director of Hazards Centre. He said 59 of the 85 water samples
showed chromium concentration above the permissible limit of 0.05
parts per million (ppm), with some samples going as high as 5.64 ppm.
“Chromium can cause skin rashes, upset stomachs and ulcers, respiratory
problems and cancer,” said Mr. Roy.
Cadmium and lead were also detected in samples from Ghaziabad. Concentrations
were high in samples collected from the drains where factory effluents
were discharged, showing that it is finding its way out from the manufacturing
Interestingly, the Hazards Centre says that since these heavy metals
are not supposed to be part of the process for manufacturing beverages,
no standards are specified for them for this industry sector in the
Environmental Protection Act, 1986. High Chemical Oxygen Demand (COD)
levels also show that the effluent must contain a significant amount
of chemicals other than the three heavy metals analysed, according
to the study.
The Coca Cola rejected the study's findings, saying that their operations
conform to Pollution Control Board (PCB) norms.
The company says that a comprehensive 2009 study carried out by the
National Environmental Engineering Research Institute and IL&FS Ecosmart
at Kaladera and Mehandiganj found no adverse impacts on soil and groundwater
“Water is the main ingredient in all of our products and we have a
shared interest in protecting the quantity and quality of this precious
resource. It would be unreasonable for anyone to think the company
itself would contaminate its main raw material,” said a release from
Hindustan Coca-Cola beverages Private Limited.
Declines to comment
The Pepsico insisted that its plants met PCB norms, but declined to
comment on the specific charges, saying that the report had not been
shared with them.
The study was conducted between 2006 and 2008, with samples being
tested at the People's Science Institute, Dehra Dun.
FAIR USE NOTICE. This document contains copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. India Resource Center is making this article available in our efforts to advance the understanding of corporate accountability, human rights, labor rights, social and environmental justice issues. We believe that this constitutes a 'fair use' of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use,' you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.