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Groundwater norms to have mixed effect on beverage makers

Arnab Dutta  |  New Delhi 

Groundwater norms to have mixed effect on beverage makers

New guidelines on use of groundwater may lead to the shutting down of many of the 1,800-odd bottling in the country.

The norms, which require new and existing units to obtain permits before continuing use of groundwater, may affect the plans of multinationals that have not replenished adequate groundwater.

"It all depends on how they adhere to the guidelines for the smooth functioning of the industry," said Arvind Verma, secretary-general, Indian Beverages Association.

  • The new regulation will hit various water-intensive industries
  • It expands to cover earlier establishments and manufacturing units
  • Existing units have to seek a 'no-objection certificate, before continuing their usage of groundwater
  • with manufacturing units in areas where groundwater is at critical or over-exploited levels will be affected
  • 20 to 25 plants of major beverage are in 'over-exploited' areas, says Amit Srivastava of India Resource Center

Guidelines directing use of groundwater have been place since 2012, but a revised set came into effect yesterday. Experts said the new rules would affect heavy users of groundwater like beverages makers, bottled water companies, breweries and the paper-pulp as it now includes existing facilities apart from the proposed ones.

"These guidelines are as stringent as the earlier ones. We will continue to comply with these guidelines as we have been doing in the past," a Coca-Cola India spokesperson said.

According to estimates, soft drinks use less than 0.05 per cent of the water used by all industries in India. However, experts pointed out that companies that focused on replenishment of groundwater could receive a breather as the rules had laid down the amount of water that could be drawn from 'over utilised' areas areas for except water-intensive industries. Industries such as soft drinks, breweries, distillery, fertilizer, paper pulp are considered water-intensive and cannot extract water from any of the 'over utilized' areas.

Experts say, while cash rich companies who have access to better technological know-how and capital can practice water recharge procedures, it is the small local player who operate in a smaller scale may have to face the heat now. "There are hundreds of bottling companies in India who does not recharge the ground water they use. If implemented on ground, these guidelines could prove to be lethal (for them)", an executive said.

"Coca-Cola has created a rainwater harvesting potential that is 146 per cent of the water used for operations," the company spokesperson said. Experts said beverage makers would now have to calculate how much water could be produced in plants located in critical areas.

PepsiCo India did not respond to emails and calls seeking its response for the story.

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First Published: Wed, November 18 2015. 00:46 IST