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Farmers Fight Coca-Cola Over Groundwater

Coke IndiaIn Mehadiganj village, Uttar Pradesh state, India, the lack of groundwater has set farmers against a local Coca-Cola bottling plant, as both vie for the dwindling resource, according to Bloomberg.

In August, Coca-Cola abandoned a $24 million expansion plan for the site, citing delays in permits to extract more water, and now says it plans to find a new Uttar Pradesh site for the planned 600 bottle-a-minute plant.

The company will continue to run its 15-year-old returnable glass bottle line at Mehadiganj.

The conflict is putting pressure on prime minister Narendra Modi to improve groundwater management as he seeks to transform India into a manufacturing hub.

According to World Bank data, India draws 230 cubic kilometers of groundwater a year, more than a quarter of the global total. Agriculture uses the most, followed by industry.

A 2009 study by the University of California-Irvine and the NASA showed groundwater depletion in northwestern India from 2002 to 2008 was equivalent to a net loss triple the capacity of Lake Mead, the largest manmade reservoir in the US.

Modi has taken steps to address water shortages, including initial implementation of a plan to connect 30 rivers. In July, India’s Central Ground Water Board said it plans to build rainwater harvesting and groundwater recharge structures around the country.

In addition, the central government is trying to convince states, which administer the resource, to pass a law to curb overuse. Thirteen of India’s 36 states and union territories have enacted the legislation, the federal administration said in August.

Back in 2004, Coca-Cola lost an operating contract in India due to water scarcity.

In June, Coca-Cola announced a goal to replenish more than 100 percent of the water it uses in its manufacturing operations in India.

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