Key Findings of the TERI Assessment

by India Resource Center
February 1, 2008

The campaign against Coca-Cola has maintained (and continues to maintain) that the Coca-Cola company's operations in India have negatively affected large numbers of people in India, particularly those that live around Coca-Cola's bottling plants.

The assessment by the Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) of Coca-Cola's operations in India released on January 14, 2008, validate the concerns being raised by the communities in India.

As a result of the assessment, it is clear that the Coca-Cola has continued to operate in an unethical manner in India. It is highly likely that the Coca-Cola company will have to shut yet another bottling plant in India- in Kala Dera, as the assessment recommends.

The assessment also points to the real and concrete problems created when a company such as Coca-Cola operated in water-stressed areas in India. As a result of the assessment, which makes clear the fallacy of operating bottling plants in water stressed areas, we now expect the calls for shutting down bottling plants in India to grow significantly, particularly in water stressed areas.


Community Concerns Validated

The assessment has VALIDATED the concerns that communities have been raising against Coca-Cola. As the assessment itself notes:

"In general, the community perceptions were found in conformity to the results obtained from the detailed technical assessment of groundwater resources." Page 38

Coca-Cola Has Sited its Bottling Plants Without Due Consideration to Community Impacts

The assessment is very clear that the Coca-Cola company has sited its bottling plants in India from strictly a "business continuity" perspective that has not taken the wider context into perspective. The report notes:

"The company's assessment of water availability in the vicinity of a bottling operation should be from a perspective that is wider than business continuity." Page 489

Coca-Cola Has Not Respected Rights of Farmers and Groundwater Conditions

Taking note of the fact that 3 of the 6 sites assessed were either in overexploited or critical groundwater areas, the repot notes:

"Siting policies need to recognize and respect the existing (formal and informal) riparian rights. For instance, the informal rights of the farmers to extract groundwater for irrigation need to be respected. This has also been acknowledged in the national and most state water policies that give precedence to domestic and agriculture demands vis-ŕ-vis industrial demand for water. This aspect is relevant particularly in case of areas that are critical or overexploited (as per the norms defined by the Central Ground Water Board, Government of India) and/or have been experiencing irregular and low rainfall." Page 489

Assessment Agrees with Key Campaign Demand - Shut Down Kala Dera

The TERI assessment has recommended a key campaign demand - the closure of the Kala Dera bottling plant in Rajasthan. The assessment notes:

"From the detailed assessment undertaken in the Kaladera watershed, it is obvious that the area is overexploited and it is highly unlikely that the water situation would improve to a level as to make its availability a non-issue. The reasons for this may be many and contributing factors may include, apart from the HCCBPL's operations, the existence of other industries, changes in cropping patterns, and rainfall. It was beyond the scope of this study to look at contributions, or indeed the chronology of establishment, of these other industries. Nor was it in the sprit of the assessment to attribute the issue to other stakeholders. What emerges, however, is that the plant's operations in this area would continue to be one of the contributors to a worsening water situation and a source of stress to the communities around. Water contingency measures as adopted by the plant seem to rely heavily on rainwater recharge structures, which in turn depend on rainfall in the region. Since the rainfall is scanty, the recharge achieved through such structures is unlikely to be meaningful.

In such a scenario, TCCC has to evaluate its options for HCCBPL, Kaladera, such as:
  • Transport water from the nearest aquifer that may not be stressed (could be at quite a distance from the existing plant)
  • Store water from low-stress seasons (may not exist!)
  • Relocate the plant to a water-surplus area
  • Shut down this facility
Page 42

Coca-Cola Also Warned on Mehdiganj, Another Key Campaign Demand

The TERI assessment also validates the concerns of the communities around Mehdiganj who have been campaigning against the local Coca-Cola bottling plant for creating water shortages. Using the logic offered for Kala Dera, the Coca-Cola company should also be making plans to shut down the bottling plant in Mehdiganj - another key campaign demand as well as the bottling plant in Nabipur. The report notes:

"In addition to the general recommendations, there is a need to take note of the fact that while in Mehndiganj, the water tables have been depleting and the aquifer may move from a safe to semi-critical situation, in Nabipur, the state of the aquifer has already moved from critical to overexploited condition (refer Chapter 4B and 4C). In both the areas, water-intensive crops such as rice are predominantly cultivated for a major part of the year and riparian rights need to be respected." Page 43

Coca-Cola has Not Met its Own Waste Management Standards at Plants Surveyed

While Coca-Cola has met most, BUT NOT ALL, government regulatory standards with regard to water quality, the company has failed to meet its own TCCC standards at all the plants surveyed. What is the point of having TCCC standards, we ask, if the company does not meet them? The report notes:

"As compared to TCCC's own treated wastewater quality standards, TKN (total Kjeldahl nitrogen) was found to exceed the limits in all the six plants. In addition to this, one time or marginal exceedances were found for TDS, total suspended solids, and anionic surfactants in HCCBPL Mehndiganj; biochemical oxygen demand, total suspended solids, and iron in HCCBPL Nabipur; and biochemical oxygen demand, iron, and cadmium in HCCBPL Pirangut." Page 34

Coca-Cola Does Not Have Adequate Pollution Prevention Measures

The assessment also pointed out the deficiencies in managing waste in Coca-Cola's plants in India. The report notes:

"TCCC and CCI need to develop additional requirements (standards) covering treated wastewater quality. For instance, the presence of faecal coliform and several other physico-chemical pollutants in the treated wastewater in almost all the plants calls for an urgent and stringent definition (and implementation) of standards and practices as well as source identification." Page 490

The assessment also notes that "Hydraulic loading rates as prescribed by the state pollution control boards for land application of treated effluent could not be verified at any of the sites as mentioned in the site-specific reports. Hence, the ETPs need to be redesigned/ modified and flow-measuring devices need to be installed both at the inlet and outlet of the ETP for all the plants." Page 490

The TERI assessment also found shortcomings in the effluent discharge in 4 of the 6 plants assessed. The report noted:

"The treated effluent discharge at four of the six plants (namely, HCCBPL Kaladera, Mehndiganj, Sathupalle, Nabipur), mostly met the effluent discharge requirements except for one-time exceedance of bioassay test at two sites (HCCBPL Kaladera and Nabipur) as per the appropriate regulatory standards by CPCB (Central Pollution Control Board), Ministry of Environment and Forests, Government of India, for disposal of treated wastewater on land for irrigation. The quality of the treated wastewater from the ETP (effluent treatment plant) at HCCBPL Nemam indicates exceedance of fluoride as per specified Tamil Nadu State Pollution Control Board limits. Similarly, the quality of the treated wastewater from the ETP at HCCBPL Pirangut facility indicates exceedance of chloride as per specified Maharashtra State Pollution Control Board limits." Page 34

Increased Pollution in Immediate Vicinity of Coca-Cola Plants

The TERI assessment also confirmed an alarming trend that the communities living around Coca-Cola's bottling plants have identified- pollution. However, the TERI assessment is not able to identify the source of the pollution, and has called for further studies. The report notes:

"Regional water quality assessment of four out of six sites (Kaladera, Mehndiganj, Nemam, and Sathupalle) revealed that villages located in the immediate vicinity of the plant showed the excess presence of certain parameters. However, since this assessment here could not relate the regional groundwater quality to the operations of the Coca-Cola plant, there is a need to carry out a further detailed study to establish/rule out the reasons for such presence." Page 36

Problems with Process Water

The TERI assessment also found problems with the process water (treated water used inside for plant processes) in the Coca-Cola plants, noting:

"Plant process water quality was compared to the norms prescribed by national standards IS 10500: 1991, and IS 14543: 2001 (for packaged drinking water) as well as TCCC specifications for treated water. Process water quality was not in exceedance of any of the monitored parameters at three of the six sites (HCCBPL Kaladera, Neman, and Pirangut). HCCBPL, Nabipur was found to be meeting norms for all parameters except nitrite compared to the norms specified under IS 14543:2004. The samples taken at HCCBPL Mehndiganj were also well below the specified standards; however, nitrite showed a one time marginal exceedance compared to the norms specified under IS 14543:2004. At the Sathupalle site pH, after a 0.22 micron filter, was found slightly in excess (towards acidic) of IS 10500, IS 14543 limits." Page 33

Coca-Cola Continues to Act in Bad Faith

The TERI assessment makes it clear that the fact that the Coca-Cola company did not share the Environmental Due Diligence with TERI has hampered the scope and effectiveness of the assessment. The report notes:

"EDD (Environmental Due Diligence) conducted by TCCC, prior to selecting a site or acquiring an existing site for setting up a bottling operation, examines the sources of water availability, restriction with respect to wastewater discharge, and issues of contamination and pollution at the site. While TERI was informed that this requirement for conducting EDD existed, the actual EDD assessments of the six selected plants were not shared due to legal and confidential reasons. Hence, it is not possible to surmise the extent to which long-term water availability for bottling operations were considered while conducting EDDs, or indeed the wider regional impacts considered." Page 26

The TERI assessment also points to a disturbing question. Did Coca-Cola company officials know (as they should have) that the area around the Kala Dera bottling plant was already classified as an overexploited block? The Environmental Due Diligence should have alerted them to the fact that the area was classified as overexploited. Regardless, the Coca-Cola company located its plant in Kala Dera, which has resulted in increased water shortages for the community. The report notes:

"A case in point here is the HCCBPL, Kaladera, which was established in 1999 in the Govindgarh block. This block was declared an overexploited block as per the assessment of January 1998 but was not notified as such. In response to queries from TERI, Coca-Cola representatives explained that the company's requirements do not explicitly necessitate the assessment of the effects of HCCBPL, Kaladera, bottling operations on groundwater in the region of operation but focused on ensuring a sustained supply of water for business operations." Page 26

On the Issue of Pesticides in Soft Drinks

As for the presence of pesticides in Coca-Cola products, this was not within the purview of the assessment. TERI did NOT test Coca-Cola products in India to see if they contained pesticides. The Centre for Science and Environment did test Coca-Cola products, twice. Both times, the Centre for Science and Environment confirmed the excessive levels of pesticides in Coca-Cola products. Please refer to the press statement on this matter by the Centre for Science and Environment.

For more information, visit www.IndiaResource.org

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Mehdiganj - The Issues

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