Times of India: December, 2016
Bhopal: At a time when, international beverage giant Coca-Cola is facing a stiff resistance from activists and locals in different states of the country over exploitation of water resources, Madhya Pradesh government has cozied up to it and allotted 110 acre of land along Narmada river for a food processing and bottling plant.
Coca-Cola will invest Rs 750 crore to set up a food processing unit including a bottling plant at the newly developed Mohasa-Babai industrial estate in Hoshangabad district, some 8 kms away from river Narmada. Babai industrial estate is about 98 kms away from Bhopal.
While the land allocation has been made discretely, chief minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan is likely to perform bhoomi pujan for the unit on January 11 next month.
The government is also setting up a 5 MGD (million gallon per day) water treatment plant (WTP) for uninterrupted water supply to the company.
Talking to TOI, industry minister Rajendra Shukla said, "This would perhaps be the biggest unit of Coca-Cola in India. The unit will help in employment for a large number of people. It is a big investment."
When fully operational, the soft drink unit at Babai would require about 1million litre of water daily.
"The Audhogik Vikas Nigam has constructed an intake well at Narmada in Babai and the water would be drawn from it to the WTP at the industrial estate. Coca-Cola will get water supply from the WTP the capacity of which can be further augmented any time," a senior official told TOI.
The 1,700 acre industrial estate is still being developed and Coke's unit will be the first to come up in the estate.
"External infrastructure - road, power and water- has already been made available to the plot where the plant will be set up. When completed, this would be the best site for water-based industries in India," sources said.
Bids for the development of the remaining part of the industrial area will be opened on January 27 next year, sources said.
"There is nothing to worry about pollution in the area as the Coco-Cola unit would be a zero discharge project," sources claimed. Coke is already operating its small bottling plant in Pilukhedi, about 50 kms away from Bhopal in Rajgarh district.
Coke had run in to rough weather following protests in Plachimada plant in Palakkad district of Kerala and in Madurai. After a PIL, the Madurai bench of the Madras high court in November this year granted an interim injunction, restraining Coca-Cola and Pepsi from taking water from Tamirabarani river.
After strong protests from local villagers in Plachimada, who alleged severe water crisis as the company was drawing water for its use from bore-wells and contamination of wells in the region, the village council had to revoke the licence to the company leading to a protracted legal battle.
The multinational company has also been facing community protests following water crisis in other parts of India including Rajasthan and Tamil Nadu.