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Coca-Cola: Resource Grabbing in India

In India, Coca-Cola dominates 95 percent of the soft drink market and generates  double-digit growth figures. Coca-Cola has 56 bottling facilities in India and more are planned. Often, these facilities destroy lives, livelihoods, and communities. Coca-Cola is accused of causing water shortages, pollution of groundwater and soil, and exposure to toxic waste and pesticides.

Critics like the India Resource Center state that this is simply disastrous for a country where over 70 percent of the population depends on agriculture to make a living. According to Coca-Cola, the company uses approximately 2.6 litres of water for every one litre of soft drink it produces – and 75 percent of the fresh water Coca-Cola extracts in India becomes wastewater. The company has indiscriminately discharged its wastewater into  surrounding fields, severely polluting the scarce remaining groundwater and soil. Several of its largest production facilities are located in areas plagued by scarce water resources, where Coca-Cola’s consumption of water has significantly hampered the ability of local residents to access safe drinking water. According to the latest government data, groundwater levels in the Kala Dera region fell 3.6 meters between November 2009 and November 2010. In the 10 years before Coca-Cola started operations in Kala Dera (1990–2000), groundwater levels fell just 3.94 meters. In the 10 years since Coca-Cola
started operations (2000–2010), groundwater levels have plummeted 25.35 meters.[1]

Other community members face similar problems. Most of the people of Mehndiganj, Nagepur, Benipur, and the surrounding villages in the State of Uttar Pradesh attribute the lack of water in their neighbourhood to the presence of Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Pvt Ltd, a subsidiary owned by the U.S. based multinational Coca-Cola Inc. In eleven years, from 1999 to 2010, groundwater levels in Mehdiganj have dropped 7.9 meters.[2] Three out of four wells in the area dried up. This cannot be linked solely to the persistent drought.

The Central Pollution Control Board CPCB has also found high levels of lead, cadmium and chromium in the groundwater. Signs around wells and hand pumps advise that the water is not suitable for human consumption. As a result, people have to buy bottled water – often filled by Coca-Cola. There have not been any studies into the long-term effects of the toxins. However, people have already been complaining of skin diseases and rashes.

Coca-Cola has also been criticised for funding water projects in India as part of marketing campaigns to improve its image. The company has allegedly spent over € 4.2 billion on marketing, but just € 38 million on school and water projects, many of which are failing.[3]



[3] Das Erste (online) 26.06.2012