The world's largest soft drink maker is aggressively expanding into the bottled water industry with brands such as Dasani, Evian and Dannon. And that concerns Patricia Lynn of MinutemanMedia.org.
"Between these two facets of its operations, it is a leading culprit in the commodification of one of the planet's most precious resources water," Lynn explains, adding that the UN estimates that two-thirds of the world's population won't have enough water by 2025 unless something is done.
"Corporations like Coke contribute to water scarcity by gobbling up natural water supplies for use in bottling operations. Fortune magazine has said that water promises to be to the 21st century what oil was to the 20th, and Ishmael Serageldin, the former vice president of the World Bank, has claimed that the wars of the 21st century will be fought over water," Lynn continues.
Coke's bottled water business bottles tap water from municipal water systems worldwide. It taps into water supplies, runs it through production, then sells it back to people at hundreds of times the cost, with little alteration.
The Indian sub-continent has been particularly hard hit by Coke's mega-production. Lynn explains: "In parts of India, Coke's water bottling has forced communities into major crises. At least five Indian communities face severe water shortages and health problems because of Coke's bottling practices. In the Gandhre village, the irrigation department built a dam to ensure a regular supply of water to surrounding villages.
"Coke drains hundreds of thousands of liters of this water each day, diverting it from 75,000 villagers. In the village of Plachimada, Coke illegally extracted so much water that it has dried up 260 public hand-pump bore wells and left insufficient water for irrigation. Now people have to walk two miles just to get water for their daily needs.
"Meanwhile, in the village of Mehdiganj, the exorbitant water consumption of Coke's 24-hour-a-day bottling factory has caused groundwater levels to sink by 40 feet. In addition to draining precious water resources, Coke's improper waste disposal has contaminated fields, canals and wells," Lynn says.
Later this month, thousands of people in India will participate in a 150-mile march, from one Coke bottling facility to another, demanding that the plant in Mehdiganj be shut down.
Because of the arsenic and other compounds that have been found in Coke's products in India, the Indian parliament has banned their sale in its cafeterias. However, regulating Coke's practices across India has been more difficult. Like most global corporations, Coke has the resources to power-lobby governments and promote itself extensively.
"Whether it be through price gouging, water depletion or pollution, Coke poses a significant threat to the world's water resources," Lynn contends.