In a relief to leading beverage giant Coca-Cola, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Friday stayed the order of the Uttar Pradesh Pollution Control Board (UPPCB) which shut down the Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Private Limited old bottling plant in Mehdiganj in Varanasi. The Tribunal, however, in its order restricted the firm from conducting "any activity with regard to the expansion of the existing industry."
As per the order, the company can resume its operation until its further order.
Meanwhile, the NGT ordered the UPPC Board to monitor and supervise the production of Coca-Cola till the next date of hearing. The tribunal fixed August 5 as the next date of hearing the plea.
According to a statement issued by the company, "The Appellant has made a prime facie case for stay of the impugned order only in respect of the existing industry. Under such circumstances, pending the appeal, the order of UPPCB has to be stayed only in respect of the operation of the appellant's industry which has been manufacturing 600 bottles per minute and in other respect the order of closure is not disturbed...."
Recently UPPCB had ordered to close the old bottling plant for various alleged violations, including the extraction of groundwater.
Coca-Cola's plant in Plachimada, Kerala, was shut in 2004 over allegations that the operation led to the depletion of groundwater.
The company faces legislation holding it liable for $47 million in damages stemming from this.
The company hadn't obtained clearance for the extraction of groundwater from the Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA), a government agency that monitors and regulates the process in water-stressed areas, according to a June 6 order of the Uttar Pradesh pollution board.
Groundwater in Mehdiganj has gone from "safe" in 1999 when the beverage firm commenced operations to "critical" in 2009, according to CGWA.The maker of Coke, Thums Up and Sprite fizzy drinks and Kinley
water, said the plant had complied with all "regulatory approvals and applicable laws".
The company hasn't been allowed or asked to present any facts or explain its position by the state body, it said in a statement.
Coca-Cola had said it uses water very responsibly and judiciously, and according to it, a 2012 Central Ground Water Board report had observed that groundwater depletion in the area was not due to the Coca-Cola plant. The closure order said Coca-Cola increased its production capacity from 20,000 cases per day to 36,000 without the board's permission.