Groundwater Levels Plummet Around Coca-Cola Bottling Plant, Area Declared Drought

For Immediate Release

India Resource Center
Contact: 

Amit Srivastava, India Resource Center  +91 98103 46161 (India)   + 1 415 336 7584 (US)
Mahesh Yogi, Kala Dera Sangharsh Samiti, India (Hindi only) +91 98295 99140

Groundwater Levels Plummet Around Coca-Cola Bottling Plant, Area Declared Drought

Coca-Cola Violating Fundamental Human Rights by Denying Access to Water

Kala Dera, Rajasthan, India -  Groundwater
levels in Kala Dera, the site of Coca-Cola's controversial bottling plant
in India, have plummeted 5.83 meters (19 feet) in just one year between
May 2007 and May 2008, according to government data obtained by the India
Resource Center from the Central Groundwater Board.

Such a precipitous drop in a single year is unprecedented and has never
been witnessed in Kala Dera.

The area of Kala Dera has also been declared a drought area by the
government last week, adding to the water shortages in the area.

Adding further to the severe water crisis as a result of dropping
groundwater levels and drought are Coca-Cola's bottling operations. The
company reaches peak production capacity in the summer months - using the
most amount of water - exactly when the water shortages for the community
are the most pronounced.

Farmers and the community in the Kala Dera area rely largely on the
groundwater resource to meet all their water needs, the same source of
water used by Coca-Cola for its bottling operations.

Groundwater levels are expected to drop even further this year as a
result of the failed monsoons and Coca-Cola's continued operations. As of
September 3, 2009, the area had received only 50% of the normal rainfall
for the season, according to government data. The monsoon season, which
contributes to more that 80% of the annual rainfall, is expected to end
by September 15.

"The Coca-Cola company is denying our fundamental human right to
water by continuing to extract groundwater from a rapidly falling
aquifer. Every drop of water that Coca-Cola extracts from the groundwater
is water taken away from the children, women and men who are unable to
meet their basic water needs, leave alone the farmers who are seeing
their crops fail," said Mahesh Yogi of the Kala Dera Sangharsh
Samiti, a local community group in Kala Dera opposing Coca-Cola since
2002. "Coca-Cola has contributed significantly to the falling water
tables and they must shut down and leave Kala Dera," he continued.

The community in Kala Dera has challenged Coca-Cola's bottling operations
in the area, holding the company responsible for creating water
shortages. The current drought and sharp drops in water levels have
reinvigorated the community's opposition to Coca-Cola and several
protests are being planned.

"Coca-Cola's operations in Kala Dera are an assault on the
community. The community has primary rights over groundwater, and meeting
basic water needs such as drinking and for agriculture have to be met
first. We have drought in Kala Dera and accessing water is extremely
difficult for people.  Coca-Cola has no place here. They must shut
down," said Sawai Singh of the Jan Sangharsh Samiti who has
petitioned the Rajasthan state government, including Chief Minister Ashok
Gehlot, seeking closure orders on the bottling plant.

In 2008, a Coca-Cola funded study of the company's bottling operations in
the area confirmed the concerns being raised by the community. The study
found that Coca-Cola was a significant contributor to the water crisis in
the area, and that the company had built and started its plant in Kala
Dera in 2000 despite the groundwater in the area being declared as
"overexploited" by the government in 1998. Coca-Cola has
refused to make public the Environmental Impact Assessment it says it
conducted prior to building the bottling plant which assured the company
of good water conditions in the drought prone, overexploited groundwater
area.

The study, conducted by the Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), was a
scathing indictment of Coca-Cola's operations in Kala Dera. The study
recommended that Coca-Cola shut down the Kala Dera bottling plant,
relocate the plant or bring in water from outside the area to meet its
water needs, making it clear that the community needs for water and
Coca-Cola's needs for water could not coexist.

Coca-Cola has refused to follow the recommendations of the study, which
the company funded entirely and helped design considerably.

"Coca-Cola's continued operations in Kala Dera are criminal. Water
levels have plummeted because of Coca-Cola, the rains have been
deficient, the area is experiencing drought, people have no drinking
water, farmers have no water to cultivate their land and have lost their
livelihoods, yet Coca-Cola continues to withdraw millions of liters of
groundwater to make Coca-Cola. And if those weren't enough reasons to
shut down the plant, Coca-Cola's own study has recommended closure of the
bottling plant. All the signs point towards one resolution - shut down
the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Kala Dera," said Amit Srivastava of
the India Resource Center, an international campaigning organization that
works with the community in Kala Dera to oppose the plant.

Coca-Cola's Outrageous Claims

In spite of the rapidly deteriorating water conditions in Kala Dera,
Coca-Cola has claimed that the groundwater levels are rising in the area
because of its rainwater harvesting initiatives and that the company
already recharges six times the amount of water it takes from the ground
in Kala Dera.

Such claims are dismissed as nonsensical by the community as well as
government officials and water experts consulted by the India Resource
Center. The India Resource Center has looked into Coca-Cola's claims of
water recharge in Kala Dera and concluded that Coca-Cola's claims have no
basis in reality.

1.  When Coca-Cola is asked to verify the actual numbers behind its
claim of recharging six times the amount of water in Kala Dera, Coca-Cola
admits it does not have metering mechanisms to measure how much water is
recharged.

2.  Using their 2004 actual groundwater usage in Kala Dera,
Coca-Cola's claims of recharging six times the amount of groundwater it
uses in Kala Dera translates into recharging about 1.3 billion liters of
water annually - just in Kala Dera alone - a fantastical number by any
measure. It is enough water to meet the basic drinking water needs for a
million people - for an entire year!   If Coca-Cola's claims
are to be believed, there would be no water shortages in the
area.

3.  Precipitously falling groundwater levels in Kala Dera,
particularly since Coca-Cola began operations in Kala Dera in 2000,
suggest a massive depletion of groundwater, and not a recharge or
replenishment, as Coca-Cola claims. Coca-Cola's claims contradict
government data on groundwater levels.

4.  There are not enough rains in the Kala Dera area to meet such
ambitious water recharge numbers given the number of rainwater harvesting
structures set up by Coca-Cola. Kala Dera receives less that 600 mm of
rain annually under normal circumstances and it is a drought prone area.
Nine of the last twenty six years have been drought years.

5.  About 80% of the rainfall in Kala Dera falls in a matter of 3 to
4 days, according to Dr. M. S. Rathore, a natural resource expert on Kala
Dera who is deeply skeptical of Coca-Cola's claims. Under such rainfall
patterns, Coca-Cola's claims become even more exaggerated because it
suggests that they are recharging just over a billion liters of water in
just a matter of four days. Such a feat is impossible, especially in Kala
Dera.

6.  All of Coca-Cola's rainwater harvesting structures in and around
Kala Dera are in "dilapidated" conditions, according to the
2008 TERI study the company paid for. A visit to six Coca-Cola rainwater
harvesting structures in July and August this year by the India Resource
Center found most of them to be ill maintained and not working, even
though Kala Dera receives the vast majority of its rainfall in July and
August.

"If Coca-Cola is so confident about its rainwater harvesting
initiatives, why don't they just use the rainwater they harvest to meet
all their production needs?" asked Mahesh Yogi.

For more information, visit

www.IndiaResource.org

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