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Coca-Cola Bottling Plant in Mehdiganj, UP, India


Description:

Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Pvt Ltd, Indian arm of famous soft drink major Coca-Cola has one of its bottling plants located at the village called Mehdiganj in Uttar Pradesh, India. The village is located about 25 kms from famous and holy city Varanasi. This bottling plant started its operation since 1999.

The local villagers and the people from the surrounding areas have been fighting against the plant since its inception. People alleged that the bottling plant uses unjust practices of ground water extraction [2]. Due to severe extraction of ground water, the water level in the area has gone down. The local community in and around Mehdiganj rely heavily on the same groundwater to meet all their water needs, including drinking, cooking, cleaning, providing water for livestock, as well as agriculture [1] The protestors alleged that beside the ground water extraction, the chemical waste discharged by the plant into the nearby land destroy crops and soil. It is a matter of serious concern for the local villagers. Beside the above two issues, the protestors alleged that the plant has also occupied the local panchayat (community) land without paying any tax. Although there are enough evidences of such concerns the company denied all above allegations [2].

Looking at the indifference from both the company and the government the people of Mehdiganj started an indefinite Dharna (sit in protest) infront of the coke plant on 23rd March 2006 [2]. In 2006, the protest including hunger strike lasted for over three months.

The activist demanded the permanent closure of the unit. The bottling plant has been ordered to stop operation in June 2014 by the UP Pollution Control Board. The company appealed against the closure order to the National Green Tribunal [4]. The NGT has given a stay on the order of the board and ordered the company to limit its production up to 600 bottles per minute. The company will not be able to increase production capacity till it gets a clearance from the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) [5].

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Coca-Cola Bottling Plant in Mehdiganj, UP, India
Country:India
State or province:Uttar Pradesh
Location of conflict:Village - Mehdiganj
Accuracy of locationMEDIUM (Regional level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Water Management
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Water access rights and entitlements
Specific commodities:Land
Water
Industrial waste

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Pvt Ltd, the bottling arm of Coca-Cola has about 58 bottling factories in India. Mehandiganj plant is one of the bottling plants of the company. It is a single-line facility and the only glass bottles unit. With an estimated 26,500 kiloliters of beverage production per year, this used to be one of the smallest Coca-Cola factories in India. In Mehdiganj, Coca-Cola has extracted nearly a million liters of water every day. Due to this over extraction, groundwater levels in Mehdiganj have dropped 7.9 meters (26 feet) in the 11 years after the plant was established [3]. In 2013, Coca-Cola announced that the expansion of the plant. With the proposed expansion, the plant could produce 600 polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles of soft drinks per minute [4].

Type of populationRural
Affected Population:15,000-25,000
Start of the conflict:1999
Company names or state enterprises:Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Pvt Ltd (HCCBPL) from United States of America
Coca-Cola Company from United States of America
Relevant government actors:Government of Uttar Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board, National Green Tribunal, Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA)
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:India Resource Centre, National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), Various Communist Parties

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityHIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
Reaction stageMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Industrial workers
Informal workers
Local ejos
Landless peasants
Local government/political parties
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Social movements
Trade unions
Local scientists/professionals
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Development of a network/collective action
Development of alternative proposals
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Strikes
Hunger strikes and self immolation

Impacts

Environmental ImpactsVisible: Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Potential: Air pollution, Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity)
Health ImpactsVisible: Other environmental related diseases
Other Health impactsHealth diseases due to polluted water
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Displacement, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of livelihood, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession

Outcome

Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Strengthening of participation
Under negotiation
Violent targeting of activists
New Environmental Impact Assessment/Study
Project temporarily suspended
Development of alternatives:The local community in and around Mehdiganj are severely affected by the deep ground water extraction by Coca-Cola bottling plant. They have organized protest and they apply pressure on the Coca-Cola Company and the state government of Uttar Pradesh to shut down plant. Among the many their major demands includes :
1. Closing down the bottling plant
2. Compensation for the people who lost their livelihood because of depleted groundwater and the pollution caused by the plant.
3. Restoration of the groundwater and soil
4. Criminal charges to be lifted against the activists
5. Frame charges against the company for the environmental damage
6. Responsible is to be taken for the rehabilitation of workers after the plant shut down [1]
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:In 2012, in a survey conducted by the Central Ground Water Board of India confirmed the community claims that groundwater levels have dropped sharply ever since Coca-Cola began operations in Mehdiganj in 1999. Wells in the villages started to run dry, water hand pumps stopped working and ponds in the area also dried up [1].
In early 2014, the Uttar Pradesh government realized the ill effect of the coca cola plant. Government officials also found that the plant had been built on the land belonging to the local village council and therefore the construction was “illegal.” Authorities have also imposed a nominal 126,000 rupee ($2,000) fine on the company over the land issue [4].
In June 2014 UP Pollution control board ordered the closure of a Coca-Cola bottling plant at the centre of protests that it is extracting too much groundwater [6]. However in the same month the plant resume operations following an order from the National Green Tribunal (NGT). The NGT has given a stay on the order of the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board that directed the company to close the factory. However, NGT limited the protection of the plant to about 600 bottles per minute [5].

Sources & Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Water Act
http://www.moef.nic.in/legis/water/wat1.html

Municipal Solid Wastes (Management and Handling) Rules, 1999
http://www.envfor.nic.in/legis/hsm/mswmhr.html

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Coca-Cola Abandons Expansion Plans in India Because of Water
http://www.thewire.com/business/2014/08/coca-cola-abandons-india-production-expansion/379128/

Coca-Cola freezes expansion at Varanasi due to protests, approval delay
http://www.business-standard.com/article/companies/coca-cola-freezes-expansion-at-varanasi-due-to-protests-approval-delay-114082500992_1.html

Mehdiganj protestors on hunger strike to close Coke bottling plant
http://infochangeindia.org/water-resources/news/mehdiganj-protestors-on-hunger-strike-to-close-coke-bottling-plant.html

Coca Cola yet to return panchayat land, say Mehdiganj villagers
http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/coca-cola-yet-to-return-panchayat-land-say-mehdiganj-villagers/article5534985.ece

[1] Mehdiganj - The Issues
http://www.indiaresource.org/campaigns/coke/2013/mehdiganjfact.html

[2] Mehdiganj Struggle
http://www.ashanet.org/austin/mehdiganj/about.html

[4] Coca-Cola forced to close India bottling factory over excessive water use, pollution
http://rt.com/news/167012-coca-cola-factory-closed-india/

[6] Indian officials order Coca-Cola plant to close for using too much water
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2014/jun/18/indian-officals-coca-cola-plant-water-mehdiganj

India: Coca Cola bottling plant shut down
http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_round_up/2444501/india_coca_cola_bottling_plant_shut_down.html

Mehdiganj Coca-Cola plant licence cancelled
http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/mehdiganj-coca-cola-plant-licence-cancelled

Coca-Cola plant closed down in Varanasi, for water and land pollution
http://www.asianews.it/news-en/Coca-Cola-plant-closed-down-in-Varanasi,-for-water-and-land-pollution-31379.html

Mehdiganj Struggle
http://www.ashanet.org/austin/mehdiganj/petitions/cm.html

[3] Coke shelves Varanasi expansion due to protests, approval delay
http://www.rediff.com/money/report/coke-shelves-varanasi-expansion-due-to-protests-approval-delay/20140826.htm

[5] Coca-Cola to resume production at Varanasi bottling plant
http://www.business-standard.com/article/companies/coca-cola-to-resume-production-at-varanasi-bottling-plant-114062001028_1.html

Related media links to videos, campaigns, social network

Mehdiganj - Where lives are at stake
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SQoo35L0t8k

Meta information

Contributor:Swapan Kumar Patra
Last update18/09/2014

Images

 

Protest in Mehdiganj to Shut Down Coca-Cola

Source : http://www.indiaresource.org/campaigns/coke/2013/mehdiganjfact.html