Doubts on Coke’s Water Numbers, Court Orders Verification

IRC Seeks Investigation of Water Recharge Claims

For Immediate Release
June 4, 2015

New Delhi: Coca-Cola’s claims on their water management at their disputed bottling plant in Varanasi, India are now under investigation by the court and the government.

The India Resource Center has also written to the state and national pollution regulatory agencies, as well as the national groundwater authority, asking that Coca-Cola’s groundwater recharge claims be verified.

Coca-Cola claims that it has recharged almost three times the amount of groundwater than it extracts at its bottling plant in the village of Mehdiganj.

The claim is difficult to believe given the company’s dismal track record on managing water resources in India, and there have been no independent verification of their claims so far.

The bottling plant in Mehdiganj was shut down by the state Pollution Control Board on June 6, 2014 and is operating under a temporary stay order from the National Green Tribunal (NGT), India’s green court.

In another major setback to the company, its application to expand the bottling plant in Mehdiganj was also rejected by the government on August 12, 2014 – after Coca-Cola had fully built the expanded plant – because of the declining groundwater conditions in the area.

Coca-Cola, however – ten days after the rejection – claimed that it was no longer interested in pursuing the fully built expansion.

The National Green Tribunal, which is hearing the appeal, has also cast doubt on Coca-Cola’s water management claims and has asked the government to investigate.

At the last hearing on April 21, 2015, the court ordered the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board and the Central Pollution Control Board to “verify the correctness of water user ratio given for the years 2002 to 2014” for the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Mehdiganj.

Water Use Ratio (WUR) is the measurement of the total amount of water used in the plant to produce one liter of the finished product.

In 2001, it took Coca-Cola nearly 7.5 liters of groundwater to produce 1 liter of carbonated product in Mehdiganj, according to data analyzed by the India Resource Center. The company claims its Water Use Ratio is 2.54 in 2013.

In addition, the Tribunal order has also asked the government agencies “to verify the present actual water consumption and actual effluent discharge at the optimum capacity and submit its findings.”

“Much of Coca-Cola’s claims on water conservation are a public relations exercise designed to deflect attention away from Coca-Cola’s atrocious relationship to water,” said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center, an international campaigning organization.

“The order by the National Green Tribunal to verify Coca-Cola’s claims are welcome. But we must be clear that the groundwater resources in Mehdiganj are severely stressed and there is no place for Coca-Cola when people’s access to drinking water is seriously impeded and farmers don’t have enough water to farm the land.”

The need to verify the amount of water actually recharged by companies such as Coca-Cola and other water intensive industries in India is important because the government – due to the sustained campaigns against beverage companies across India – has new rules which make groundwater usage by such industries contingent upon the amount of groundwater recharged.

For more information, visit www.IndiaResource.org


Amit Srivastava +91 98103 46161 (India)

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