Two years ago, Mark Shapiro sent a message about the long-running protest about the activities of Coca Cola in Mehdiganj, prompting a search and the publication of a brief chronology (protest, highly toxic pollution, water-related issues, ill-treatment of protestors) from 2003-2011, which may be read here: https://chssachetan.wordpress.com/2011/05/28/coca-cola-in-mehndiganj-varanasi/.This post has been found and read by more people than any other blog on this site.
Recently, Subhash Sule, co-ordinator of CHS-Sachetan, forwarded news from the India Resource Center: Coca-Cola’s bottling plant had been shut down by state government authorities in Mehdiganj in the state of Uttar Pradesh. Reasons given included:
- The Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) ordered the plant to shut down because it found the company to be violating a number of conditions of its license, or “No Objection Certificate” (NOC).
- The Pollution Control Board, in its order dated June 6, 2014 noted that Coca-Cola had failed to obtain clearance to extract groundwater from the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA), a government agency that monitors and regulates ground water use in water-stressed areas.
- The groundwater in Mehdiganj went from the “safe” category in 1999 when Coca-Cola started operations to “critical” in 2009, according to the CGWA. As a result, more ground water use restrictions are in place, including on ground water use by farmers and the community for drinking water”.
- Coca-Cola had increased its production capacity from 20,000 cases per day to 36,000 without the Board’s permission.
- It was also suggested that the company may have misled the Board about the actual amount of industrial waste discharge (which has remained constant, according to Coca-Cola, in spite of increasing production by 80%).
- The Board also noted that Coca-Cola’s waste “Treatment System/Plant” was not operating “smoothly/properly”.
The campaign, which enjoys widespread local support, sent letters from 15 village councils (panchayati) in April 2013 seeking closure of Coca-Cola’s plant.
Regrettably, on June 20th, TOI reported that an order from the National Green Tribunal ‘stayed’ UP Pollution Control Board’s directive to close the facility on Friday. The order has prevented the company from increasing its production from 600 bottles per minute until it gets a clearance from the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA).
The account on the India Resource site is far more informative – making clear that the stay applies only to Coca-Cola’s older bottling plant, which can temporarily resume operations until the next hearing of the appeal. It adds that the National Green Tribunal has also ordered the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board to monitor and supervise the production of Coca-Cola until the next hearing.
For background on Mehdiganj and for more information visit www.IndiaResource.org