Indian Farmers, Coca-Cola Vie for Scarce Water Supply

In the Indian state of Rajasthsan, farmers have accused Coca-Cola factories of drawing too heavily on the area's water supplies and contributing to pollution. Fred de Sam Lazaro reports on the controversy and the claims of both the company and its critics.

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  • GWEN IFILL:

    Next, the battle between Coca-Cola and farmers over the shrinking supply of available water in India. NewsHour special correspondent Fred de Sam Lazaro has our report from the state of Rajasthan.

  • FRED DE SAM LAZARO, NewsHour Correspondent:

    This is one of 49 factories that make Coca-Cola drinks across India. The company has invested over $1 billion dollars building a market for its products in this country, but Coca-Cola's welcome has been less than effervescent, particularly around this factory in Kala Dera, in the arid and recently drought-stricken state of Rajasthan.

    The plant used about 900,000 liters of water last year, about a third of it for the soft drinks, the rest to clean bottles and machinery. It is drawn from wells at the plant but also from aquifers Coca-Cola shares with neighboring farmers. The water is virtually free to all users.

    These farmers say their problems began after the Coca-Cola factory arrived in 1999.

  • RAMESHWAR PRASAD, Farmer (through translator):

    Before, the water level was descending by about one foot per year. Now it's 10 feet every year. We have a 3.5-horsepower motor. We cannot cope. They have a 50-horsepower pump.

  • RAM SAPAT, Farmer (through translator):

    Every day, a thousand vehicles come out of that factory taking away our water. What is left for our kids?

  • FRED DE SAM LAZARO:

    To irrigate their fields of barley, millet and peanuts, these growers complain they must now drill deeper and use heftier pumps to water their fields.

  • MANGAL CHAND YADAV, Farmer (through translator):

    I've had to drill three times. It's down to 260 feet. Five years ago, it was 180 feet.

  • HARI MICHAN YOGI, Farmer (through translator):

    It's because everyone has a submersible pump now, the Coca-Cola factory. There's not enough rain. These are the reasons.