Officials in the Indian city of Varanasi have ordered a Coca-Cola bottling factory in the nearby village of Mehdiganj to close down for using too much groundwater. The local community has campaigned against the factory for years, claiming it has depleted available water supplies and polluted groundwater and soil with its waste.
J.S. Yadav from the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board commented, “The plant is closed following our orders. They have also been asked to take suitable measures to recharge the depleting groundwater level by twice the amount they have extracted. Also, the effluents released by the plant contain pollutants beyond the permissible limits.”
The first indication that closure was imminent came earlier in the month when the company was ordered to produce a permission certificate. The company appealed the closure order in the National Green Tribunal, India’s environment court, but on Wednesday officials confirmed it had closed. Earlier this year, the plant was threatened with destruction on the grounds that it was built on village council land and was “illegal.” Despite years of protests against the plant, Coca-Cola completed an expansion of its operations there last year, increasing capacity to 600 PET bottles per minute.
Coca-Cola has 58 bottling plants throughout India, with many facing similar protest action amidst claims they are to blame for local groundwater shortages and pollution. The protests highlight the conflicting lifestyles of a growing, increasingly affluent Indian middle class and the villagers who make up around 50 percent of the population and still rely on wells for water supplies. In June, 2013, Coca-Cola announced that it would invest $5 billion in manufacturing and distribution networks in India by 2020. The company has repeatedly denied claims it is causing environmental damage at any of its Indian factories.
Via The Guardian
Photos by Coca-Cola