Coca Cola has received some relief from the National Green Tribunal, which has passed an interim stay on the UP pollution board’s order to shut down its plant in Mehdiganj, near Varanasi.
The maker of Coke, Sprite, Thums UP, Kinley and other drinks, has been allowed to continue with its normal operations of about 600 bottles per minute or more than 8.6 lakh bottles a day.
However, the company cannot, for now, proceed with any expansion plans, for which it would need to get a go-ahead from the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA).
The beverage manufacturer’s UP plant was asked to shut down operations by the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) on June 6 for allegedly violating ‘rules/conditions related to pollution’.
According to the order passed by the board, Coca Cola had also not obtained a nod from the CGWA for extracting ground water for its use.
Further, in a reminder of another case involving Coca Cola in 2004, the CGWA said it found that groundwater in Mehdiganj has gone from the “safe” category in 1999 when Coca-Cola started operations, to “critical” in 2009.
The local population and activists allege that Coca Cola is at least partly responsible for the massive depletion in ground water.
The carbonated-drinks maker was earlier indicted in a similar case relating to its plant in Plachimada, Kerala, which was shut down in 2004. The company faces legal action that could find it liable to pay damages to the tune of $47 million in this case.