The farming community of Rajasthan, northwest India, recently had unusual cause to celebrate when Coca-Cola's Kaladera plant suspended bottling
. Although the soft drinks giant has been swift to claim this course of action is a direct result of the firm's commitment to the communities in which it operates (cue sardonic guffaw) the local farmers' action group has been lobbying for its closure since 2004
. That Coca-Cola's commitment to the community takes 12 years to materialize tells a lot about how seriously they take it, but at least the farmers themselves can get on with the business to which they owe their lives and which the presence of the Kaladera bottling plant has done much to impede – i.e. the tending of their crops and especially the supply of water to maintain them. And this is where the contention has lain.
The Kaladera plant is just one of three in India where bottling has been suspended due to the impact it has had upon those regions' sparse groundwater reserves. Again, rather than accept culpability, Coca-Cola has made a big PR fuss about not only its continuing community commitment but also, in direct contradiction, claimed that the closures are part of an ongoing reorganization of corporate operations. A number of other bottling plants, however, are still continuing to use India's precious reserves of H2O at an alarming rate. The chief issue for India and its farmers, is that the poorer segments of society, of which this vast nation has many, fight an unceasing battle against starvation that only the productivity of its farms can stave off. And in this battle, the importance of groundwater, especially in the production of rice, is absolutely paramount. A slave to the monsoons, and dependent upon the deluge hopefully produced to fill its rivers and other water sources, the frequently irregular and unpredictable nature of this seasonal phenomenon is as capable of producing drought as it is plenty. Indeed, India has been singled out for the rapidity of its groundwater depletion, which is greater than any other nation in the world. And yet, Coca-Cola has thought nothing of trading in the welfare, and even lives, of those who exist near one of its bottling plants, for yet another quick and easy buck.
(Coca-Cola finally held to task over groundwater theft