The National Green Tribunal imposed a penalty of almost Rs 25 crore on two Indian bottlers of US cold drinks, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo for illegally extracting groundwater.
NGT found Moon Beverages and Varun Beverages, manufacturers of Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, guilty of violating environmental legislation issued by the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA). According to the NGT, the two companies operated without the mandatory no objection certificate (NOC) to use underground water.
“We are of the view that PPs (Project Proponents) are responsible for illegal extraction of ground water at least after expiry of NOCs, issued to them by CGWA. They continued to extract ground water without any authority. Further, they are also liable to pay environmental compensation for causing loss to environment by failing to comply the most crucial condition of NOCs ie recharge of water.”
NGT’s bench of Justices Adarsh Kumar Goel (Chairperson), Sudhir Agarwal and Brijesh Sethi (Judicial members) ordered both the companies to pay a total amount of around ₹25 crores for illegally extracting the groundwater and harming the environment.
The Greater Noida plant of Moon Beverages Ltd was fined with ₹1.85 crore whereas the Sahibabad plant of Coca-Cola (Moon Beverages Ltd) was fined with ₹13.24 crores and on the other hand PepsiCo’s Greater Noida plant (Varun Beverages Ltd) was fined with ₹9.71 crore.
“Time and again, acting in a most callous and defiant mode, CGWA has proceeded in its own way, going to the extent of permitting wholly illegally massive exploitation of ground water, that too, in extremely stressed areas, wholly unconcerned with the consequences.”
The NGT directed the Ministries of Environment, Forests and Climate Change and Jal Shakti, the Central Pollution Control Board, the Central Ground water authority, the Uttar Pradesh Ground Water Department and District Magistrates of concerned districts to ensure that the compensation, received from PPs, shall be utilised for recharge of ground water, restoration of environmental damage etc.
It also directed the committee to prepare a restoration plan within 2 months, execute the same in next 6 months and submit a detailed report to the Registrar General of NGT.