Coca Cola forced to abandon $25million dollar project
Coca-Cola has been forced to abandon a newly built bottling plant in Mehdiganj, India as the result of a sustained campaign against the company's plans.
Coca-Cola required permission from the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) and the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) before they could open the $25million plant but failed to get the required permits.
The Central Ground Water Authority rejected Coca-Cola's application to operate its new facility last week.
The $25 million plant had already been fully built and the company had also conducted trial runs, but could not operate commercially as it did not have the required permits to operate.
Campaigners say that two days before the rejection was to be made public on Monday the company sent a letter to the authorities stating that it was "withdrawing" its application blaming "inordinate delays" by the authorities.
Activists and local communities had campaigned to make regulators aware of the problems caused by Coca-Cola's existing bottling facility in the area, and the reasons why a five-fold increase in groundwater allowance that Coca-Cola had sought for its new facility would further deteriorate conditions in the area.
The Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) had also shut down Coca-Cola's plant on June 6, 2014 because it found the company to be violating a number of conditions of its license. However Coca-Cola was able to obtain a stay order that allowed it to temporarily re-open its existing plant on June 20, 2014.
Campaigners from the Indian Resource Centre say that the groundwater conditions in the Mehdiganj area have gone from "safe" category, when Coca-Cola began operations in June 1999 to "critical" in 2009. As a result, severe restrictions have been placed by the government on groundwater use by the community and farmers.
"Coca-Cola is a shameless and unethical company that has consistently placed its pursuit of profits over the well-being of communities that live around its facilities. It is absolutely reprehensible for a globally recognized company like Coca-Cola to seek further groundwater allowances from an area that has become acutely water-stressed, and that too in large part due to Coca-Cola's mining of groundwater alone, " said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center which has led the campaign to challenge the new plant.
"We are delighted that the Indian government is doing what it is supposed to do - protect the common property resource of groundwater from rampant exploitation, particularly in water-stressed areas. This should serve as a notice to other companies that they cannot run roughshod over Indian rules and regulations and deny community rights over groundwater," said Srivastava.
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