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UPDATE: Pepsico’s water claims in India are erroneous

Maude Barlow at the dharna outside the Coke plant in Plachimada

Maude Barlow at the ‘dharna’ outside the Coke plant in Plachimada

The India Resource Centre reports, “Pepsico is claiming that it has achieved ‘positive water balance’ in India. Pepsico prominently states on its bottled water in India that Pepsico is ‘giving back more water than we take’. Pepsico’s claims are erroneous, misleading and deceptive. The company does not give back more water than it takes.”

The Centre notes, “Pepsico’s ‘positive water balance’ claim is based on the company’s assertion that it used just 5 billion liters of water in 2009. Our calculations, however, estimate that Pepsico is responsible for at least 50 times more water than it admits. …Having a ‘positive’ relationship with water entails water stewardship at the local, watershed level. To our surprise, only 15% of the water conservation projects conducted by Pepsico are in the same watershed where Pepsico operates. Of all the water that Pepsico says it saved in 2009, only 2% came from ‘in-plant water recharge and harvesting’. …(And) of the 34 operating Pepsico plants in 2009, 9 plants – over 25% – were located in areas that the government has classified as water stressed (semi-critical, over-exploited and critical) – hardly a picture of a ‘positive’ water company.”

Pepsi and Coke plants have been sites of resistance in communities across India. Kala Dera in Rajasthan, Mehdiganj, Ballia and Jaunpur in Uttar Pradesh, Sivagangai in Tamil Nadu, Kudus in Maharashtra, everywhere people are waging militant struggles, demanding closure of the bottling plants. In Plachimada, Kerala where people have been on a continuous dharna (‘a peaceful demonstration at the door of an offender’) since April 2002, Coke’s bottling plant has been shut down since March 2004. In February, the Kerala Legislative Assembly passed a Bill to set up a special tribunal to realise compensation from Coca-Cola for the “losses” its plant at Plachimada caused to people in the area. The Bill is waiting for an assent from President of India but the struggle on the ground is ongoing. For more on that Bill, please see http://canadians.org/blog/?p=5637.

Additionally, this past March, a PepsiCo media release stated, “PepsiCo and the PepsiCo Foundation are deeply committed to respecting the human right to water and have publicly announced a global goal to provide access to safe water to three million people in developing countries by 2015… The PepsiCo Foundation (has) announced a $5 million grant to the AquaFund, a fund launched by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) to facilitate investment in water supply and sanitation, water resources, and solid waste management and wastewater treatment.”

In reference to similar grants, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow and Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter have stated, “This is an attempt by a large corporation to ‘bluewash’ their reputation. PepsiCo has faced extensive and well-deserved criticism around the world for depleting groundwater resources, undertaking unsustainable inter-basin water transfers and polluting water sources, all of which leave these local communities and ecosystems suffering from increased water scarcity and degraded water quality. Clearly PepsiCo makes unconscionable profits through the abuse and access to water in many parts of the world…”

Barlow and Hauter also noted, “A few years ago the people of Pudussery, India were able to get local authorities to revoke PepsiCo’s water license because of the company’s impacts on their groundwater. Others continue to fight, and these are the communities where PepsiCo can dramatically improve the quality of life for people by immediately stopping its unsustainable environmental practices. We call for people around the world to stand up for these communities and for water justice – and against these large multinational corporations wielding such immense power. Water is life.”

The detailed report by the India Resource Centre, titled ‘Deception with Purpose: Pepsico’s Water Claims in India‘, is available at http://www.indiaresource.org/news/2011/pepsipositivewater.html. The blog noting Barlow and Hauter’s comments on Pepsico, can be read at http://canadians.org/blog/?p=6060.