Coca-Cola's Water Demand in Andhra Pradesh Opposed
by M N Samdani
Times of India
May 12, 2015

Mangalagiri: The Andhra Pradesh government is all set to supply water from Krishna river at a throwaway price to beverage giant Coca-Cola for its bottling plant at Atmakuru village near Mangalagiri. The government's move to supply five million litres a day (MLD) to Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Private Ltd has come at a time when several villages in the area are grappling with drinking water shortage and farmers are seeking water to irrigate crops.

The Tenali municipal council passed a resolution recently to supply water from its dedicated drinking water channel, which has triggered protests from farmers. The opposition parties criticized the TDP government for being generous to Coca-Cola and compromising on the rights of farmers.

"We will go ahead with the supply once the government gives the nod," municipal commissioner P Shakuntala told TOI. "Since we are utilizing only 5 MLD from the water channel at present, we can spare water to the Coca-Cola plant, which will help us generate additional revenue," she reasoned. She said the water needed for Tenali is not much now as all the households are yet to get connections, but the requirement would go up once the capital city construction work begins.

Places like Atmakuru, Tenali (rural), Chinnavadlapudi, Ippatam, Pedavadlapudi, Tadepalli and Duggirala are already hit by water shortage. "Does the government want its rural poor to drink beverages sold by Coca-Cola? The Chandrababu Naidu government is more concerned about a beverage company than the drinking water needs of villagers," lamented YSR Congress leader Ambati Rambabu.

Sources said Coca-Cola is believed to have promised to pay Rs 1.8 crore annually towards water charges (for supply of 2,000 million litres) to Tenali municipality. "We collect Rs 30 per 1,000 litres from industries," explained executive engineer Prabhakara Rao. This works out to 0.03 paise for each litre.

Interestingly, Tenali municipality has spent Rs 100 crore to develop the full-fledged drinking water project and pays Rs 2 crore every year to the government to clear its loan.

Ironically, the Tenali municipal council gave its nod for sale of water after neighbouring Mangalagiri municipality turned down a similar proposal. It is learnt that Coca-Cola lobbied hard to get the proposal cleared by Mangalagiri council as the plant is located closer to it.

"We rejected the Coca-Cola request as we were apprehensive about shortage of drinking water in the coming years. I am trying to convince the corporators as senior officials from the Chief Minister's Office (CMO) had asked me to get the proposal cleared," municipal chairman Ganji Chiranjeevi said.

Coca Cola, which has been operating in Atmakuru since March 1999, earlier relied on groundwater for its operations. It had earlier sought permission to use water from the Krishna main canal in December 2007. A senior executive of the company, in an email response, said that sufficient quantity is available in borewells located on the plant premises.

Meanwhile, opposition parties have decided to intensify agitation against the proposed sale of water to Coca-Cola with a demand, 'Tenali water only for Tenali.'

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