Reports that Coca-Cola plans to use surface water from Yamuna for its upcoming bottling plant near Dehradun have raised concern about power production from hydel projects on the river.
"If water is taken by Coke from Yamuna at Vikasnagar, it will surely affect the power production of our five major hydel projects," said G P Patel, managing director of the state-run UJVN Ltd, which produces 475 Mw.
Avadhash Kaushal, chairperson of Dehradun-based NGO Rural Litigation and Entitlement Kendra (RLEK), said: "Three major hydel projects were scrapped on the Bhagirathi river, which is a big loss to Uttarakhand. Since our state is facing acute power shortage, we will oppose any move that will affect the power production of hydel projects on the river Yamuna."
The river also provides water for irrigation to Haryana, Delhi and Uttar Pradesh.
Since Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna holds both industry and power portfolios, the government is treading a cautiously on the issue. "If we explore different options, there should be no problem to supply water to the Coca-Cola plant. If need be, we can bring water from nearby canals instead of the Yamuna barrage. But there should be no controversy on the issue," said Rakesh Sharma, principal secretary, industrial development.
Coca-Cola signed an agreement on Wednesday with the government-controlled State Industrial and Infrastructure Development Corporation of Uttarakhand Ltd (SIDCUL) here for setting up a Rs 600-crore plant at Chharba village in Dehradun district, one of the first major investments in the state after the withdrawal of the hill-based tax incentives in 2010. The company's senior vice-president Patrick George said the plant might go on stream in 18 months.
The company's Indian bottling arm, Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverage Pvt Ltd (HCCBPL), would set up its 25th plant on 60 acres at the Chharba industrial area, 30 km from here.
The company has been assured by the state government that it would get clean water from the Yamuna river barrage at nearby Vikasnagar area. Over 1,000 people are likely to be employed in the new plant, said State Principal Secretary Rakesh Sharma.
The agreement was signed in the presence of Chief Minister Vijay Bahuguna, HCCBPL Executive Director Shukla Wassan and Sharma, who is also Managing Director of the SIDCUL, the nodal agency for the industrial development in the state.
"This is a big occasion for us that Coca-Cola is setting up its beverage plant in Uttarkahand. This will give a tremendous boost to the investment scenario in the hill state," said the chief minister after the signing of the agreement.
The chief minister also said the hill state has unique features like peaceful atmosphere, less crime and labour problems that make the investment climate better than other states.
The company handed over a cheque of Rs 1.60 crore as earnest money to SIDCUL to purchase the 60 acres for Rs 95 lakh an acre. The total cost of the land would be Rs 57 crore.
The company would initially produce most of its major products like non-alcoholic carbonated beverages, juices, fruit-based drinks from its proposed plant, said Sharma.
Significantly, Coca-Cola refused to take any incentives being offered by the state government. "We are surprised that the Coke did not take any incentives from us. They could have easily got 25 per cent discount in land price but the company refused to take any incentive offered by the government," said Sharma.