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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Coca Cola sucking too much water in India

NEW DELHI — A leading environmental research group based here has asked Coca-Cola to consider shutting down a bottling plant in the drought-stricken state of Rajasthan, saying that the plant is depleting scarce water supplies.

The recommendation came in a report released Monday by the organization, Energy and Resources Institute. The report was commissioned by Coca-Cola in 2006 in response to reports that pesticide residues had been found in its products.

The study found no pesticides in the water used at the six bottling plants it sampled, and said that water quality “generally meets the government regulatory standards.”

But the report expressed concern about the company’s use of scarce water supplies — an issue that has been raised repeatedly by villagers who live near several of the company’s bottling sites.

The assessment looked at 6 of the company’s 49 bottling plants in India, but highlighted conditions at the Kaladera plant in Rajasthan. The plant’s presence in this area would “continue to be one of the contributors to a worsening water situation and a source of stress to the communities around,” it said. The company should find alternative water supplies, relocate or shut down the plant, the report concluded.

Atul Singh, chief executive of Coke’s India division, said the company was not considering shutting the plant. “The easiest thing would be to shut down, but the solution is not to run away,” he said. “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.”

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