Coca Cola has depleted Indian village s water for 16 years


A campaign to oust the soda corporation is growing among villagers in the Mehdiganj area, yet Coca Cola still denies allegations. Western imperial capitalism has few more recognizable faces than Coca Cola. The soda company sells its products in over 200 countries around the world, rarely to the benefit of the local communities. Eighteen village councils in northern India are calling for a Coca Cola bottling plant nearby to be banned from extracting groundwater, alleging overuse by the enormous corporation has depleted the villages’ stores of water. The villages, located in Mehdiganj area of the Varanasi district, claim the shortages have existed since 1999, the same year the plant opened. Amit Srivastava, member of the India Resource Center in California said the allegations are true and as a supporter of the village councils, asked for Coca Cola to abandon its plant. "Elected village council heads represent the voice of the people, and they are clear that Coca-Cola is not welcome in Mehdiganj,” Srivastava said, adding emphatically, "It is time for Coca-Cola to pack up and leave.” "Coca-Cola paints a pretty picture of itself internationally as a responsible user of water, but the reality in India is that it exploits groundwater at the expense of the poor, the women, children, farmers and livestock who have to live with less water because Coca-Cola mines groundwater in a water scarce area for profit." Mehdiganj, in the state of Uttar Pradesh has experienced a lowered water table since the 2000s. Villagers in this largely agrarian community have been campaigning against the Coca Cola plant since it opened, and reports abound charging the plant with discharging “liquid effluent in the fields behind the plant.” Farmers have complained of lowered revenue as a direct result of Coca Cola’s dumping and water lodging in the nearby fields. A 2004 article in India Resource Center cites Rajendra Pandey, a moderately prosperous farmer who sold some fields to the plant. "There have been no mangoes in the last four years. They dry up in the flowering stage itself, before they can bear fruit. Our family has lost thousands of rupees each year." Raj Narain Patel, a member of Gaon Bachao Sangharsh Samiti (Struggle Committee to Save the Village) said "Ever since Coca-Cola began production, every year there's been a fall of ten feet.” The 18 village councils have urged the State Pollution Control Board, the grantor of Coca Cola’s original license, to ban the company from extracting more groundwater. In 2011, the Central Ground Water Authority declared the bottling plant area as “over exploited,” yet thus far state and corporate bodies have taken no action. Coca Cola denies all the allegations, citing a report by a different water authority that essentially said there was no evidence the company was responsible because some of the village’s crops were still growing. The company has also employed a campaign of hearts and minds, “distributing utensils, organizing medical camps, gifting the odd sewing machine, and building a tiny room in a local school.” But the villagers and community members do not need the charity of Coca Cola, they need their land and resources back.