Coca-Cola plant shut down
A Coca-Cola bottling plant has been shut down by government authorities in the state of Uttar Pradesh in India.
The India Resource Center reports that the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) ordered the plant to shut down on June 6th because it found the company to be violating a number of conditions of its license to operate.
The UPPCB took the action after that Coca-Cola failed to obtain clearance to extract groundwater from the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA), a government agency that monitors and regulates groundwater use in water-stressed areas.
The groundwater in Mehdiganj has gone from “safe” category in 1999 when Coca-Cola started operations to “critical” in 2009, according to the CGWA. As a result, more groundwater-use restrictions are in place, including on groundwater use by farmers and the community for drinking water.
The closure is a major victory for the community in Mehdiganj which has sort to shut down Coca-Cola’s plant.
UPPCB’s closure order also noted that Coca-Cola had increased its production capacity from 20,000 cases per day to 36,000 without the Board’s permission, and 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 cast doubt on Coca-Cola’s waste treatment plant, noting that the “Treatment System/Plant” was not operating “smoothly/properly”.
Coca-Cola has approached the National Green Tribunal (NGT), an environmental court in India, appealing against the decision of the UPPCB and has asked to be allowed to re-open its shut down facility. The NGT has not yet allowed the plant to reopen in the three hearings so far.
Welcoming the closure of Coca-Cola’s plant, Nandlal Master of Lok Samiti who has spearheaded the local campaign said, “We knew it was a matter of time before the government acknowledged the demands of the community. This is a great victory and a welcome confirmation that local communities can successfully take on big, powerful business.”
Coca-Cola’s expanded facility in Mehdiganj has already been built but has not been able to begin commercial operations. The company also faces a major obstacle in its operations because some of the land acquired by Coca-Cola for its plant is community owned land and cannot be used for private purposes. In December 2013, local authorities passed an order to evict Coca-Cola from the illegally occupied land but Coca-Cola approached the courts and obtained a stay order.
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