Mehdiganj Coca-Cola plant licence cancelled

Order of Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board cites non-compliance of NOC conditions; local community welcomes decision

By Anushka Kaushik
Published: Wednesday 18 June 2014

Photo courtesy India Resource Center

The Coca-Cola plant located in the village of Mehdiganj in Varanasi has been shut down by the state government following an order issued by the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB).

The order, issued on June 6, states that the NOC (No Objection Certificate) for capacity expansion/enhancement of the plant stands cancelled. In addition, the water consent order and air consent order which were previously granted have been cancelled. The UPPCB has directed the company not to run the plant under any circumstances without obtaining consent of the state board.
UPPCB noted that Coca-Cola failed to obtain and submit an NOC from the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) and that conditions imposed by them were not being complied with.
Public protests against Coca-Cola’s plant began in early 2013 and has consistently grown louder, following the company’s move to expand production. Farmers in Mehdiganj  depend heavily on groundwater resources for their water needs. The setting up of Coca-Cola’s plant has led to over-extraction of groundwater as well pollution of the water resources in the area, with CWGA deeming the current groundwater levels as “critical”.

Amit Shrivastava from India Resource Centre, a campaign group that supports movements against corporate globalisation, said: “There has been ample evidence of the environmental risks the plant poses. Their water treatment system has not been functioning properly. Most of the industrial effluents and sludge is dumped in the surrounding areas which also causes health hazards.”   Previously, the Central Pollution Control Board had found excessive levels of heavy metals in the waste discharged by the Coca-Cola plant.

According to the order issued by UP pollution board, Coca-Cola was granted conditional permission for a certain amount of industrial discharge keeping in view their production of 20,000 cases/per day. Subsequently, the production capacity in 2012 was shown at 36,000 cases/per day with the same amount of industrial discharge. This was an act of misleading and misguiding the board on the company’s part by increasing their production by almost 80 per cent and showing their industrial discharge to be constant. Therefore, this indicates a strong possibility of by-passing additional generated industrial discharge on part of the company.

Local communities who have been continuously protesting against the plant’s expansion have welcomed this order, which effectively shuts down Coca-Cola’s productions operations in Mehdiganj.

Order: Order of the National Green Tribunal regarding running of M/s Hindustan Coca-cola Beverages Pvt. Ltd.. without obtaining NOC from Central Ground Water Authority, 16/06/2014

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