Coca-Cola is confident the factory will re-open

Coca-Cola is confident the factory will re-open

The Coca-Cola Company has been forced to close one of its Indian bottling plants for allegedly using too much groundwater, but says it is “confident” operations will resume after an appeal. 

Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board this week ordered the soft drinks firm to shut the facility in Mehandiganj, Varanasi, for breaching the conditions of its operating licence, the Times of India reported. Control board member, JS Yadav, was quoted as saying:  “They (Coca-Cola) have 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.” 

Groundwater levels around Mehdiganj have reportedly been at “critical” levels since 1999. 

In a statement to just-drinks today (19 June), Coca-Cola said: “Managing water responsibly is the highest priority in our approach to environmental policy and corporate social responsibility in India. 

“At our bottling plant in Mehandiganj, Varanasi, we have reduced the amount of water used per beverage produced by 34% since 2004.”

It concluded: “We believe our operations have a positive impact on the community, and we are confident we will be able to resume operations in Mehandiganj once we have been able to present the facts to the National Green Tribunal.” 

Coca-Cola has faced problems in India previously over water usage. In 2007, the south Indian Kerala state government alleged the company's bottling plant in Plachimada had been polluting water and soil in the area, which the company denied. The facility had shut in 2004 after the Kerala state government ordered the company to stop using local groundwater. It has never re-opened.   

The group is planning to invest around US$5bn in India by 2020, it announced two years ago.