Cola Plant ‘Drinks Up’ Groundwater in UP
by Chetan Chauhan
Hindustan Times
April 19, 2013

New Delhi: International food and beverage major Coca Cola is heading for a trouble in Uttar Pradesh with the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) describing the ground water situation in Mehdiganj district - the place of company's bottling plant - as critical putting a question mark over the company's plant to expand the plant's capacity.

The company did not respond to an email questionnaire in this regard.

India ground water regulator, CGWB, has observed last year that the company's current ground-water extraction in Mehdigank was "excess" but did not blame the company for depleting ground water sources in the region. In 2009, the board has declared Arajiline block where the company's plant is situated as "critical" for underground water sources and banned new handpumps and borewells in the region.

The board, a body under Water Resources ministry, monitoring of the underground water in the region shows that the level is going down since 1999, the year when the plant was set up. The water was around five meters below the ground in 1999 which dipped to around 13 meters in 2011.

The company extracts about 50,000 cubic meters of water annual from the underground resources and was required to replenish them through water conservation measures.

The board had also found that the water conservation measuring including rainwater harvesting did not have much impact on depleting ground water sources, a cause of rebellion against the plant by local villagers.

Now around 15 village councils in the vicinity of the plant has now written to the board for rejecting the company's request to expand the capacity of the plant from 50,000 cubic meters annual to 250,000 cubic meters. These 15 villages are located within 15kms of the bottling plant.

The panchayats hold the bottling plant responsibility for depletion in the underground water level, a claim denied by the company. The water from underground sources is key for agrarian needs of the local villagers and their livelihood.

"There is grave injustice taking place here as villages and farmers are left without water while the company is mining water to earn profit," said Mukesh Kumar, Sarpanch of Nagepur panchayat in a statement released through an NGO India Resource Centre.

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