29 April, 2006

Water bottles

From the above figure, it is clear that

the total cost on a water bottle is Rs. 2.85 - 4.25
(excluding labour, marketing and tax)
But the selling cost is 10.00 to 12.00

Take for instance the case of Coca-Cola's bottling plant in drought-prone Kala Dera near Jaipur. Coca-Cola gets its water free except for a tiny cess (for discharging the wastewater) it pays to the State Pollution Control Board - a little over Rs.5,000 a year during 2000-02 and Rs.24,246 in 2003. It extracts half a million litres of water every day - at a cost of 14 paise per 1,000 litres.

So, a Rs.10 per litre Kinley water has a raw material cost of just 0.02-0.03 paise.

(It takes about two to three litres of groundwater to make one litre of bottled water.)

However, water is not that cheap in the United States, home to Coca-Cola and PepsiCo. The average cost of industrial water in the U.S. was Rs.21 per 1,000 litres in the late 1990s. It was Rs.90/1,000 litres in the United Kingdom and Rs.76/1,000 litres in Canada.

Huge real costs

The reason that companies do not have to bear the cost of the main raw material - water - has made this industry highly profitable. But the real cost of the industry is huge.

The cost of fast-depleting groundwater is incalculable and so is the cost of disposal of plastic bottles and pouches. These are hidden costs that society and the environment pay and will pay in the future. The sale of bottled water is therefore not environmentally sound by any stretch of the imagination.

There are much cleaner ways to access clean and healthy water and for this we will have to rethink our water paradigm.

Groundwater is the cleanest and cheapest source for all, but we have over-extracted and polluted it with natural contaminants, agro-chemicals and industrial waste. We will have to recharge and revive our groundwater bodies and for this the existing archaic law must change.

Our surface water bodies are in a deplorable condition. We dump our sewage and industrial waste in rivers and ponds, try to clean them in massive centralised treatment plants and then supply the water to urban households - to be discharged again as wastewater into the same waterbody. This vicious cycle must be cut and stopped. The cost of dirty water is just too great for society to bear. Bottled water and domestic treatment systems are a cheap as well as fill-and-forget solution for 30 per cent of the population, but in doing so we have not left any solution for the 70 per cent of the poor and the marginalised.

(Excerpts from an article in Frontline dated April 08-24, 2006, Written by Chandra Bhushan, Associate Director, Centre for Science and Environment, New Delhi.)


The purpose (providing social justice or equal opportunities for all) with which the reservations were started was lost. With the reservations, people with vested interests have found that caste is a good bargaining tool approved by the govt and hence can be utilised for personal gains. With this, in India, the society "has been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls (Tagore's Geetanjali)" and these walls are cemented by the reservation system. New systems have brought with them new evils.

The other side of the coin is that where the real problem ie, caste based discrimination still exists, the reservations have become ineffective. (ex: 1. a school teacher who was a Dalit was not allowed to enter the school which functions in the premises of a temple. 2. In another village, school children, at the behest of their parents, refused to eat the mid day meal cooked by a Dalit woman). People must be educated that caste based discrimination is inhuman. Mere reseravtions have not helped us much in achieving this.

Moreover, reservations always remind us of the caste to which we belong: forward, backward, Scheduled, etc. We observe that everyday, more castes are demanding that they must be promoted in the caste hierarchy by being included in a more beneficial group. At least now, we must understand that a system which nurtures the caste consciousness in us, cannot remedy caste-based discrimination.

Supplying text books free of cost and giving scholarships to economically backward students is much better than reservations. No child must be denied admission into any school based on caste or social status. Admission into colleges and employment opportunities must be based solely on merit. Anything that develops caste consciousness must go. Reservations must go.

Initially, Reservations were thought to be only a temporary provision but now... nobody is thinking in that direction. God! save my country!!

NBA and Rehabilitation

From an exclusive report in today's The Hindu

A Sardar Sarovar Project Status Report submitted by the Union Water Resources Ministry to the Prime Minister's Office on March 22 — after Narmada Bachao Andolan activists went on an indefinite dharna here — nails the claims of the States concerned on rehabilitation of dam-displaced families.

The report reveals that 36,921 families in 226 villages in Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra will be affected consequent to the raising of the height of the Narmada dam to 121.92 metres. 27,934 families were affected in three states at the height of 110.64 metres. The report clearly shows that 13,233 families remained to be resettled in Madhya Pradesh alone at 110.64 metres.

Even when the Centre was armed with this crucial, authentic information, it sought to put the burden of proving the number of displaced families on the NBA. The NBA protested against raising the height of the dam, saying about 35,000 displaced families between the heights of 110.64 and 121.92 metres remained to be rehabilitated.

The Narmada tribunal award and the Supreme Court held that families facing submergence should be rehabilitated at least six months ahead of raising the dam height, by December 31, 2005.

The NBA has demanded suspension of construction of the dam until the rehabilitation of the displaced families is completed as per the law and not with cash compensation.

Growing intolerance

Ah, I have not updated this blog for a long time now. Almost two months! Meanwhile, several things have happened. I am particularly concerned about the growing intolerance among the people. See what happened when Amir Khan extended support to the Narmada Bachao Andolan (NBA), which has opposed raising of the height of the Sardar Sarovar dam across the river.

NBA offices in Gujarat were ransacked. Youth Congress workers stalled the screening of Aamir Khan movie 'Rang De Basanti'. The workers also burnt Aamir's posters at Aradhana theatre, where the movie is being screened and appealed his fans to come out of the hall, police said. BJP youth wing workers burnt effigy of Aamir Khan in Ahmedabad.

A local Congress leader Narendra Ravat said they will not allow screening of Aamir Khan's film in the city, while the president of Gujarat unit of Youth Congress Mihir Shah has threatened that movie theatres in Gujarat will not be allowed to screen his movies.

National general secretary of BJP youth wing Amit Thakar said they will not allow screening of Aamir's films in entire Gujarat, Mumbai, Jaipur and Bhopal from April 15.

"We will teach him a lesson by not allowing to screen any of his films in future," he threatened.

What's happening? Everyone in the society has a right to say and do what they want, subject only to public order, decency and morality. Then, why this intolerance when a celebrity says or does what he feels? Why can't those 'workers' try to explain what they feel and convince the peolpe and get their support? Why this misplaced anger? Where are we going?

More land will be irriagted if the dam's height is raised. But it is feared that huge dams lead to environmental disasters. Suggested alternatives are: a large number of small dams, check dams, soak pits, and rainwater harvesting, etc.

And the immediate concern of people like Medha Patkar is the welfare of the people who get displaced as a result of raising the height of Sardar Sarovar Dam. These people get uprooted from their villages with top priority, get deported to another palce where, having lost their links with their homeland, with their past, with their means of livelihood, they are left in the lurch as unwelcome guests in the new place without even proper shelter if at least the rehabilitation work is not done properly.

They in fact allege that the Centre and the concerned State governments have been negligent in pursuing the task of rehabilitating the displaced people as a result of raising the height of Sardar Sarovar Dam.

Patkar fears and for genuine reasons that, the displaced people will lose everything they have and gain nothing as the Govt's promised rehabilitation will be too late and too little as she feels that the rehabilitation work is not being done in accordance with directive of the Narmada Water Disputes Tribunal and the Supreme Court’s orders.