In the Southern Indian state of Tamil Nadu more than a million traders are said to be boycotting fizzy drinks. Tamil Nadu has a population of an estimated 70 million people – roughly 10 million bigger than the UK. This shift in social climate is driven by concerns about excessive use of scares water recourses after Tamil Nadu’s interim chief minister O Panneerselvam declared the state “drought-hit”.
Companies such as Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are main targets during this boycott. Vikram Raja, president of the Vanigar Sangam trade association, included: “[Foreign companies] are exploiting the state’s water bodies to manufacture aerated drinks while farmers were facing severe drought.”
The director at the NGO Indian Resource Centre estimates that it takes around 2 liters of water to make a single bottle of Coca-Cola. The biggest problem comes down to the sugar craze in fizzy drinks. Consumers are demanding more and more sugar cane based fizzy drinks each year. “According to our research Coca-Cola is the number one buyer of sugarcane in India and Pepsi is number three. If you consider the water used for sugarcane, then we’re using 400 liters of water to make a bottle of Cola.”
With over 2,000 families in Tamil Nadu directly reliant on Coca-Cola and PepsiCo jobs, it’s interesting to think about the amount of backlash this boycott can cause. Not to mention the estimated 5,000 indirect jobs this can affect.
Although the protests are generally for a benefit of the state, simply trying to get rid of the “water-guzzling” sugar cane plant is extremely unfair to the people whose jobs and lives depend on it. Arvind Varma, secretary of the IBA stated: “These actions are detrimental to the image of the country and to the long-term interests of the Indian economy.”