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Coca-Cola Refuses to Close Indian Plant Despite Local Water Shortage

Coca-Cola Refuses to Close Indian Plant Despite Local Water Shortage

“The easiest thing would be to shut down, but the solution is not to run away. If we shut down, Rajasthan is still going to have a water problem. We want to work with farming communities and industries to reduce the amount of water used.”
-Atul Singh, chief executive of Coke’s India division

January 16, 2008 —

When Coca-Cola commissioned the Energy and Resources Institute to test its water supply at a Rajasthan plant for pesticide residues in 2006, it probably wasn't expecting the organization to suggest that it shut down operations in the state over an unrelated issue. The water was found to meet government standards for purity — which doesn't explain why soda the plant produced in 2006 was found to have pesticide levels at 24 times the recommended limit — but a local water shortage means Coke's operations there pose a greater threat than just contaminated soda.

The water table in Rajasthan has been falling for years, and Coca-Cola — which receives a virtually free and unlimited water supply from the government — has been blamed for exacerbating drought conditions that have made times very difficult for farmers throughout the region. Through a press release, Coca-Cola promised to continue to work on ways to increase water efficiency, but offered no plans to close the plant or decrease its output:

We are strengthening our plant siting requirements, our monitoring capabilities for both rainwater harvesting and wastewater treatment and our guidelines for source protection and operating in water scarce areas. We also are expanding our efforts to work with local communities to ensure sustainability of the local water resource and have launched The Coca-Cola India Foundation for Sustainable Development and Inclusive Growth.

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