Coca-Cola India bottling plant halted - more water rows?

By Rachel Arthur

- Last updated on GMT

Clashing stories: Coca-Cola and India Resource Center
Clashing stories: Coca-Cola and India Resource Center
Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages (HCCB) will no longer build a Rs. 500 crore ($80m) bottling plant in Tamil Nadu, India citing ‘inordinate delays’ in the government system, but activists from the India Resource Centre (IRC) have claimed victory for a campaign on water shortage fears. 

A spokesperson from HCCB denied it was solely related to the campaign and told "IRC has a record of sending over unrelated, twisted statements and facts."

It is not the first time HCCB and IRC have clashed over Coca-Cola’s activities in the country, with Coca-Cola abandoning a $25m bottling line in Uttar Pradesh​ last year.  

‘Unanticipated, outside pressures,’ says Coca-Cola

SIPCOT, the State Industries Promotion of Tamil Nadu, had allocated land to HCCB for the bottling plant.

HCCB says it has written to the state government, saying that due to unforeseen pressures and delays it will not be able to invest in the project.

The company took all steps to start construction on the aforesaid allotted land. However, the project was delayed due to unanticipated, outside pressures.”

It says it has been waiting for pre-requisite approvals which include a draft copy of the agreement to procure water from NTADCL (a water supply project), a water line on the site and an effluent transfer line.

“Without these, we are unable to apply for ‘Consent to Establish’ and start construction work on the site," ​it said.

“Despite sending repeated reminders to SIPCOT there has been no progress. These inordinate delays, coupled with local activism against the project, could not have been foreseen nor prevented by us.Despite best efforts to address concerns, we could not commence construction and the project cannot be executed. We have requested State Government to refund [the] entire money paid so far.”

The plant would have been used for a variety of beverages including juices and packaged drinking water. In a statement issued in March, HCCB said it had “no plans to extract ground water at any stage for any use in the operations at Perundarai and intends to take water from SIPCOT to meet the industrial water requirement

‘Well-coordinated campaign:’ India Resource Center

The India Resource Center, however, says the project was cancelled by the government.

A government letter (sourced by IRC) cites “non-compliance of terms and conditions of allotment order/lease deed

The IRC said: “In the letter dated April 20, 2015, SIPCOT, a government agency, informed HCCB that the land allotted to HCCB had been cancelled.

“The cancellation of the land allotted to Coca-Cola for a Rs. 500 crore (USD $80 million) bottling plant came as the result of an extremely well-coordinated campaign led by farmers and political parties who opposed Coca-Cola’s plant because it would worsen the already existing water shortages in the area, and bring more pollution into the area.”

IRC said there was widespread opposition to Coca-Cola, declaring a protest on March 5 as a success. Further protests had been organised for April 30.  

“Residents in Perundurai cited the dismal track record of Coca-Cola in India – creating water shortages across the country and polluting with toxic chemicals – as their main reasons for opposing Coca-Cola,” ​it said.

Previous problems

During the Uttar Pradesh situation, HCCB blamed delays from India’s Central Ground Water Board in approving plans to draw extra groundwater but the India Resource Centre claimed it was a ‘colossal victory’ for campaigners.

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