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  • Village goes dry as soft drinks MNC exploits groundwater

    For the locals of Kala Dera village near the city of Jaipur, in Rajasthan, beverages like Coca-Cola and beer may be easier to come by than plain drinking water.

    Ever since the multinational giant Coca-Cola set up a bottling plant in the village, all wells and ponds in the area have dried up. “Water levels have fallen more than 150 feet since the bottling plant came up. Apart from depriving us of drinking water, the declining levels have ruined the agriculture-based economy of the area,” say the villagers.

    Apart from the economy, everyday life has also been severely affected. Four years ago, water could be found at a depth of less than 50 feet. Now the level has drastically dropped.

    Seeking a solution, the villagers have sent a memorandum to Rajasthan’s chief minister Ashok Gehlot, asking that the plant be shifted.

    Shyam Lal Kumawat, 48, whose five-acre field adjoins the bottling plant, says the 14 wells dug by Coca-Cola are drawing hundreds of gallons of water, seriously lowering the water table.

    The soft drink company, which, ironically, is funding water conservation projects in the Thar desert, says it is not responsible for the depletion of groundwater in the region. “The plant was set up after we were allotted a fixed quota of water by the state government. We are not using even 20% of that quota,” claims Sunil Sharma of the MNC’s communications wing.

    Meanwhile, the state government admits it was a mistake to allow a water-guzzling plant here. “We have to reconsider our policies,” said an industries department official. This admission, however, seems to be the extent of the government’s acknowledgement of the problem. It has now sanctioned a beer distillery in the area.

    Source: Hindustan Times

    May 8, 2003

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