The bottling plant in Hapur has been under scrutiny by the National Green Tribunal India's ‘Green Court ‘ since 2015, and a number of inspections by government regulators have found the plant to be flouting environmental laws in India, and also operating without valid licenses, or No Objection Certificate (NOC).
Coca-Cola has had ample time to rectify the pollution violations, and the company had prior notice before inspections. Yet, the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB), India's top environmental regulatory agency, and the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB), the state's primary environmental regulatory agency have continued to find serious pollution violations by the Coca-Cola company, including:
- Operating without a valid license, or No Objection Certificate, both in 2015 and currently in 2016
- Of the two Effluent Treatment Plants at the plant (one for medium and the other for high strength organic wastewater), the ETP for the high strength organic wastewater was not working and in defunct state
- Discharging wastewater into a pond located 1.5 kilometers from the plant which has been found to be faulty in design
- Encouraging farmers to use the water from the pond for irrigation, even as pond water tested found it is not complying the general standards in respect to TSS, COD, BOD and Coliforms. Fecal Coliform, an indicator of raw sewage, was found to exceed the standard by 3,400 times in the pond water!
- The boilers and the diesel generator sets in the plant were violating air pollution laws
- The plant has two Sewage Treatment Plants and both were non-operational and in the junk state
The shocking findings led the CPCB to recommend in December 2015 that the bottling plant's juice production line cease operations because the high strength organic waste was not being treated properly. CPCB also recommended that alternative arrangements for safe drinking water be made for residents in the area, applying the 'polluter pays' principle if necessary, since the groundwater has been contaminated with sewage from the untreated effluents.
Hazardous Pollution Continues, In Spite of Warnings
In the most recent report submitted to the National Green Tribunal last month (July 2016), and also seen by the India Resource Center, regulators continued to find problems with Coca-Colas pollution management practices.
Some of the problems noted in the latest report including sludge "NOT handled in a scientific and manner", "sludge drying beds and storage of sludge are not as per norms", and maintenance of the pond is not proper - with location of the inlet and outlet at the same corner, resulting in immediate discharge and overflow of the effluents, and a number of other continued violations.
Coca-Cola's plant in Hapur is categorized as a highly polluting unit that generates hazardous waste. The latest report also sounded alarm regarding Coca-Colas handling of hazardous waste, stating that the room for storage "is not designed in a scientific manner." The report notes that all the drums meant to store hazardous waste were in "rusted condition" and "even the bottoms of some of these drums have been detached due to corrosion."
The report by CPCB goes on to state that, "it was established that this storage is constructed only for eye-wash purposes", noting that Coca-Cola could not even provide documents to prove that the hazardous waste generated is sent to an authorized hazardous waste treatment facility, as is required by law.
Coca-Cola - A Habitual Polluter in India
CPCBs troubling findings are not surprising Coca-Cola is a habitual violator of pollution norms in India.
The same plant in Dasna was also found to be violating pollution norms by a Wall Street Journal investigation in 2005, and Coca-Cola officials admitted wrongdoing to the reporter.
In 2003, CPCB found high levels of heavy metals lead, cadmium, chromium in most of the waste tested from Coca-Cola bottling plants, including this plant in Dasna which was found to have excessive levels of cadmium and chromium in its sludge.
Coca-Colas bottling plant in Plachimada in Kerala was shut down by government regulators in 2005 for heavy metal pollution.
The same year, BBCs Radio 4 tested sludge from Coca-Cola's plant in Plachimada which was being distributed to farmers as fertilizer, and found it to contain excessive levels of cadmium and lead.
In 2007, a team (including the India Resource Center) visited a Coca-Cola franchisee pIant in Ballia in Uttar Pradesh and found illegal dumping of waste across the premises. In 2008, the CPCB also tested waste from Coca-Cola plants at different locations to understand the constant source of heavy metals in Coca-Cola waste, and linked it to the ink used in the logos painted on the bottles.
"The arrogance and incompetence of this company is beyond belief", said Amit Srivastava of the international campaigning group, India Resource Center. "The company has been given enough notices to clean up its act but it still refuses to do so in India, and operates without the necessary licenses.
"The plant should be closed permanently, and the Government must move to force Coca-Cola to compensate the community in the area who will bear the brunt of Coca-Cola's pollution for years to come, as well as workers in the plant who will lose their jobs through no fault of their own."
For more on this story, visit www.IndiaResource.org