There are several cases of improper institutional practices in India that have led to socio-economic and environmental problems for the citizens. The Kaladera case is one such instance when a corporate giant Coca-Cola exacerbated the miseries of people in the already water scarce region. Kaladera is a small village located 40 kilometers away from the capital of Rajasthan, Jaipur. The lives of people, especially the weak and marginalised in the village is currently at stake because of the Coca-Cola plant.
Fiinovation, a global CSR firm that also focuses on sustainability initiatives, highlights that the Coca-Cola plant that supposedly drained the region of its water reserves was finally shut down. The region which is known for its mud resistant block prints and natural dying handicrafts, have struggled for more than a decade. The exploitation by the soft drink giant ended after the people’s movement ensured that interest of the marginalised is not undermined. The people’s movement was a reminder of the role of the state and businesses to safeguard the interest and rights of the citizens. In fact, the impact of the movement was such that Coca-Cola also had to shut down their plants in Andhra Pradesh and Meghalaya.
Fiinovation reviews that the entire process posted some serious questions on policy planners, institutional bodies granting licenses and the role of pollution control boards. Ironically, the plant was set up in 2000 and was permitted to extract water in one of the most water scarce region of the country, Rajasthan. The ruling state government in that year had adopted an anti-people policy by providing tax incentives to a soft drink producing unit in a block which has already been declared overexploited in 1998 by the Central Ground Water Board.
Ground report from Kaladera suggests that it is located in the semi-arid zone and has frequent droughts and low average annual rainfall. Fiinovation finds that the village doesn’t have canals, water bank and has a dried river Bagho, making it difficult for the inhabitants to survive. At present, nobody is willing to take the blame for the man-made crisis leaving the people in despair. The problems of the local communities can only be solved by the nature’s capacity to rejuvenate the area.
Fiinovation reviews that there is no institutional mechanism to replenish the loss and water management in the region is a daunting task. One of the main reasons for this crisis is the lack of clear property rights which is creating adverse environmental impacts of resources due to wasteful and unsustainable consumption. It can also be said that there is a policy failure resulting in trade-off between industrial demand and agricultural demand for water.
Fiinovation comprehends that the scant availability of water for irrigating the agricultural fields dipped the yield per hectare. The worst affected were the marginal farmers and the agricultural labourers. The plant even didn’t solve the employment issues in the region as opportunities were mostly contractual with meager salaries. Additionally, it increased burden on the women and girls who have to walk miles to fetch water for household purposes.
Therefore, to overcome the current crisis looming over the region, both businesses and the authorities will have to collaborate and work efficiently to increase the water availability. Fiinovation believes that CSR funds need to be channelised towards rainwater harvesting and watershed development projects. Development of canals, water pipelines, lakes, etc. are necessary to overcome the water crisis. Apart from this, climate smart agriculture, drip irrigation and low water consuming crops can be the additional ways to strengthen the livelihood of the farmers.
By Rahul Choudhury
Media & Communications, Fiinovation