Mark Shapiro sent us a message about the long-running protest about the activities of Coca Cola in Mehdiganj, Varanasi (May 2011) which prompted a very well-read post on this website .
In April this year, the Hindu reported that fifteen village panchayats are opposing Coca-Cola’s plans to expand its bottling plant at Mehdiganj, 20 km from here, and have called on the government to stop the company’s current groundwater extraction. They believe that this company’s activities have escalated an existing water shortage in the area, making access to drinking and farming water difficult for the community.
The panchayats said the company should halt its current ground water extraction as well
They pointed out that since Coca-Cola started bottling operations in 1999, groundwater resources had fallen by 7.9 metres. Since hand pumps, wells, bore wells and ponds in the area have dried up, the government had to declare the area’s groundwater resources as critical. Moreover, due to the water scarcity, the authorities have banned the installation of all new government hand pumps and bore wells. The affected villages are located within a five-kilometre radius of the bottling plant.
Coca-Cola’s application to the Central Ground Water Authority and the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board called for permission to increase in its groundwater usage from the current 50,000 cubic metres annually to 2,50,000 cubic metres for its bottling plant in Mehdiganj.
“There is grave injustice taking place here as villages and farmers are left without water while Coca-Cola continues to mine groundwater, and that too for profit. Communities have primary rights over the use of groundwater, and we have decided that it is in the best interest of the communities to not allow Coca-Cola to expand, and also to put an end immediately to its current groundwater use,” said Mukesh Kumar, sarpanch of Nagepur panchayat, Mukesh Kumar.
As a spokesman for the India Resource Center said years ago:
“A just climate policy must challenge multinational companies like Coca-Cola that continue to operate in drought areas such as Mehdiganj and Kala Dera in India, significantly compounding the impacts of climate change already being experienced by the communities. Access to water is going to become more challenging in years to come because of climate change, and corporations must be held accountable for misusing water resources locally that make already-existing climate impacts on communities much worse”.
Its current update may be read here: http://www.indiaresource.org/campaigns/coke/2013/mehdiganjfact.html
COMMENT: a reader sent a link to this ‘Cola Varanasi’ cartoon: