AFTER HOLDING Coca-Cola responsible for depleting the ground water level in Mehndiganj, Varanasi, the National Alliance for People’s Movement (NAPM) has come up with fresh allegations against the Cola giant. This time it is accused of polluting water bodies and fields in the area with toxic effluents of their bottling plant.
In a press conference on Saturday, national coordinator of NAPM Sandeep Pandey shared a report of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) of the sludge sample of the cola plant in Mehndiganj, Varanasi that clearly showed that the sludge contained heavy metal concentration. In all the samples, heavy metals like lead, chromium and cadmium were found above the permissible limit.
According to the CPCB benchmark, permissible limit of cadmium and chromium is 50 mg per kg and lead should not exceed 100 mg per kg. But in all seven samples taken by the CPCB, lead and chromium were found above the permissible limits. However, cadmium exceeded the limit in five out of seven samples.
The NAPM also questioned the CPCB that if the bottling plant in Kerala could be closed on the basis of heavy metal concentration found in the effluents, then why not in Mehndiganj? In response, the CPCB said that the UP Pollution Control Board had told the company to dispose of their bio waste according to the norms. “This response is not adequate.”, added Pandey.
The NAPM also released a report, ‘Decreasing Water Levels’, that is a status of the water table in Mehndiganj and surrounding villages of Varanasi. The study was conducted in eight villages situated within a 3 km radius of the bottling plant.
The report, covering all the shallow wells, bore-wells and hand pumps in the 3-km radius revealed that 90 per cent of the wells in the area have been affected by the presence of the cola unit. As many as 39 per cent of the shallow wells have either dried up or are in the process of drying, since 2000. Almost 25 per cent wells had dried up and 14 per cent were in the process of drying up, informed R Chandrika, an engineer associated with Lok Samiti in Varanasi who conducted the survey for preparing this report.
She added that since Coca Cola had started its operations in the areas, 50 per cent of the wells had seen a drop in the water level. An average of 18 feet drop had been observed in the last 10 years. The rate of fall of the water table in the current decade had exceeded by 1,000 per cent over the previous decade since Coca-Cola started its operations.