Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Village in India evacuates to protest bottled water plant

This story from India shows what lengths local populations will go through to protect water resources.

People leave village protesting mineral water
July 6, 2010, The Times of India

MADURAI: Over 500 persons, most of them dalits belonging to 250 families, deserted their village, Valliammalpuram near Kadayanallur in Tirunelveli district, on Sunday and went to live on a dry pond in the outskirts of their village protesting the inauguration of a mineral water plant.

Valliammalpuram is a dalit village in Nainaraharam panchayat in Tirunelveli district. A few months ago they came to know of a proposal to set up a mineral water plant in Nainaraharam and opposed it. The factory was being set up by relatives of a local municipal councillor V Sultan (DMK) and repeated petitions to the chief minister's cell and the environment ministry had not borne any result.

Speaking to TOI, Saravanan, a villager, said theirs was an agricultural village where over 280 acres was under cultivation of various crops including paddy, banana and sugarcane. They heard that seven acres of land had been bought for the water unit and a borewell up to a depth of 850 feet was to be dug. "We feared that our livelihood would be affected by this borewell and have been opposing it ever since," he said.

On Sunday, the plant was inaugurated by state environment minister T P M Mohideen Khan and, as an act of protest, the people immediately deserted their village.

They left with their belongings and livestock and went to the dry bed of the pond said they intended to stay there until their demand to close down the unit was conceded. They said officials should have paid attention to what the people were trying to say. Industries that had an adverse effect on agriculture and groundwater should be banned, the villagers feel.

As tension prevailed in the village following the protest, a posse of police personnel has been deployed in the region.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

India: 24 hour water delivery - for those who can pay for it

Todays Financial Express published in India, discusses the rapid growth of bottled water sales in the country and the emergence of home delivery of bottled water products.

The article explains how sales of bottled water are growing rapidly in India but does not mention that huge portions of the population have no access to clean public tap water and do not have the means to purchase privatized packaged water.

Water management
June 15, 2010
Financial Express

Picture this. It's the rainy season. You come home late tired and discover that your building doesn't have electricity and water and you have run out of drinking water as well. It's late, it's raining cats and dogs and shops are closed. But you still need drinking water.

Just pick up your phone and dial Bisleri and they will deliver bottled water right at your door step. Yes, Bisleri, the largest player in the Rs 2000-crore bottled water market with 60-65% market share is moving towards this direction.

The company has already set up a call centre and water helpline which currently offers its services 12 hours in a day pan-India. It is now planning to offer its services round the clock.

"We have already made all the arrangements. The delivery time is about 12 hours, of course, not midnight. But we are talking to the RTOs (regional transport offices) to allow us to park our vehicles in different locations so that we can tell the consumer that even if you require Bisleri in the middle of the night it's available. We have a set-up where we can call each other and make the delivery. But midnight permission is yet to come in. RTOs have certain restrictions about parking trucks in the night. But we are hopeful that in the next few months we should be able to roll out this service 24/7," said Bisleri director Anjana Ghosh.

The competition in the bottled water market has increased manifold and beverage makers including Parle Agro, Pepsico, Kingfisher and others have forayed into this space. And that is what's spurring Bisleri to improve its services.

"We have had the advantage of being the first mover in the sector and we have the highest market share. Because we were the first movers we have an advantage as far as the brand is concerned and there is high brand recall," said Ghosh.

"To a consumer, buying Bisleri, Aquafina or Kinley is all the same as far as the price is concerned. However the brand that will reach the consumer faster than the others will have the edge. That is where we are trying to move forward. Where we score over the others is our service levels. Because we have a plant here in Mumbai and we can reach consumers than anyone else. So service is where we will be concentrating."

Pinakiranjan Mishra, partner and national leader, retail and consumers products practice of consultancy firm Ernst and Young saids, "With people becoming more aware about health issues the concept of buying bottled water has really taken off well in India. Earlier it used to be an elite product but now it has become a part of everyday life. So there is no challenge on the demand side. Also, there is a huge scope for existing branded players to expand into small towns and cities. In these smaller markets even a local water brand is sold at similar price to that of a branded one. So people are used to paying high price for bottled water and therefore there is a huge scope for branded players to expand in these markets."

The year 2010 has been eventful for Bisleri as the brand has been experimenting with new packaging. Right at the beginning of the year it introduced a celebration pack for its 250-ml and 500-ml packs. "These packs are mostly used at parties and weddings and conferences and therefore we decided to introduce a celebration packaging for these SKUs (stock keeping units). Also, we thought we will add something new to that pack because predominantly every consumer has in mind only the 1-litre pack," said Ghosh. "Somewhere we wanted to make a conscious effort to push the sizes to the consumer. And that's where we thought we should have a communication done to this effect."

With the Indian Premier League twenty20 cricket tournament kicking off in April, the company introduced another packaging around cricket. "We introduced another pack with special cricket labels. And this has given us a lot of visibility specially within the younger generation. We have 15 such special labels around words used in the game, added some pun into it and had a special graphical representation. We spent nearly Rs 15-20 crore for advertising during the IPL. We have seen a rise of about 30-35% in these two SKUs in terms of sales and therefore we feel this was a good move," said Ghosh.

Despite the economic downturn last year, Bisleri saw a growth of 23-24%. This year in April and May it witnessed a growth of about 27% over the same period last year and expects to close the year with 30% growth over last year. In 2008-2009, its revenue was Rs 360 crore that grew to Rs 410 crore in 2009-2010.

The company has already spent Rs 30-40 crore of its advertising and marketing budget in the first half of the year against a full year budget of Rs 60-70 crore. As far as the media mix is concerned, retail activation is at the top of their list. "If a consumer walks into a store they should be able to see Bisleri and touch Bisleri. So the touch points like dealer boards, in-shop dressing, the malls, etc., remain most important for us. As far as the electronic media is concerned it is only for branding," said Ghosh.

However, transport and distribution remains a challenge for the company. "The product is very heavy, bulky and low value. So in a truck in which you could carry any other product worth Rs 10 lakh, in our case a full truck could be carrying goods worth just Rs 50,000," explained Ghosh. "The only way to grow is increase the distribution and therefore we are aggressively beefing up our infrastructure and building plants very close to the market. In tier II and tier III cities we have appointed distributors. Currently we have nine manufacturing centres of our own. And we have 52 which are contractual."

Even Mishra agrees that with growing competition, it is distribution that will differentiate one player from another. "Distribution remains the primary challenge. Globally most of the products are bottled at source. However, in India it is distilled.

The ones which are bottled at source are extremely overpriced. And, if they try to bottle the water at source and then sell it at different parts of India then distribution will become humongously expensive."

The company has also launched Vedica—natural mountain water sourced from the Himalayas—in the western and the southern markets. This marks Bisleri's entry into the premium bottled water segment.

"We will be coming up with flavoured water and that's our target for the future," said Ghosh.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

How multinational bottled water companies exploit lack of clean water in Mexico

In Mexico, fear of tap water fuels bottled-water boom

Tim Johnson, McClatchy Newspapers, May 27, 2010, MEXICO CITY — It's a simple warning — don't drink the tap water — and Mexicans take it to heart as much as any foreign tourist does.

Mexicans drink more bottled water than the citizens of any other country do, an average of 61.8 gallons per person each year, according to the Beverage Marketing Corp., a consultancy. That's far higher than Italy, and more than twice as much as in the United States.

A rising mistrust of tap water is behind the thirst for bottled water. Other factors are also at play, however, including clever advertising campaigns by multinational corporations and the failure of the Mexican government to provide timely data on water safety.

The boom in bottled water has an underside, too. Empty plastic water bottles litter landfills and roadsides at a rate that alarms consumer and environmental groups. Recycling experts say that only about one-eighth of the 21.3 million plastic water and soft drink bottles that are emptied each day in Mexico get recycled.

Mexicans weren't always as distrustful of tap water as they are these days.

"Twenty years ago, there were drinking fountains in all the public schools and in most parks," said Claudia Campero, a Mexico representative of Food & Water Watch, a Washington-based consumer advocacy group. Now, such fountains are rare.

Some municipal water systems in Mexico have fallen into disrepair, including in the capital, where a 1985 earthquake that killed more than 10,000 people broke numerous water mains. The city siphons water from the underlying aquifer faster than rainfall can replenish it, causing the city, much of which is built on an ancient lakebed, to sink, which puts additional stress on leaky water mains. Some 30 percent of the city's water is lost to leakage.

"The infrastructure is very old and obsolete. Even though there has been investment, it isn't enough. Runoff is seeping into the water system," said Octavio Rosas Landa, an economist at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.

For years, many residents grew accustomed to boiling tap water to ensure its safety, but natural gas prices have risen, making boiling expensive.

Not all the water is bad. Some provincial cities have improved their water systems, and Environment Ministry officials say that 85 percent of the water coursing through municipal systems is potable. Consumers, however, don't know when they might sip the other 15 percent. Many Mexicans simply don't trust the government to deliver clean, pure water.

That's where multinational companies with bottled water divisions — such as Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, France's Groupe Danone and the Swiss giant Nestle — have found an opening.

"These companies tell people to have confidence in them rather than in the government," Campero said.

One can hardly turn on the television without seeing an ad of a lithe young woman in a sweatsuit sipping from a bottle of premium water or a woman in a bikini whose svelte physique seems due to the bottle of water in her hand.

"Drink 2 liters of water a day," the ads from Bonafont, a leading brand from Danone, say in block letters at the bottom of the screen. Another ad says: "Eliminate what your body doesn't need."

"The competition is very intense," said beverage analyst Ana Paula Pedroni of the IXE brokerage. "The trend is for more marketing."

On street corners, vendors hawk liter bottles of water. Restaurants don't offer tap water, insisting that diners buy bottled water. Primary school students must take money to buy bottled water from kiosks. One brand uses characters from Looney Toons to appeal to the student market.

"Most of my students carry bottles of water, and they drink a lot with this heat," said Rosas Landa, the university economist and water expert.

For big companies, the boom in bottled water consumption in developing countries such as Mexico, India, China and Indonesia has been a godsend, since consumers in Europe, a stronghold of bottled water, have rebelled against throwaway plastic bottles as harmful to the environment.

Not so in Mexico. Former President Vicente Fox, a longtime Coca-Cola executive, looked positively on rising soft drink and bottled water sales, seeing them as a driver of economic growth. Mexicans drink an average of 42.3 gallons of soft drinks per capita annually, surpassed only by U.S. consumers.

The growth of soft drink consumption is slowing in comparison with water, however.

"The sale of water has risen on the order of 8 percent, while soft drinks rose 2 percent," Pepsi Mexico President Juan Gallardo Thurlow announced in early April.

The Beverage Marketing Corp. in New York City says Mexico's bottled water market composes 13 percent of the world's total, and has grown at 8 percent for each of the past five years.

Consumer advocates say Mexicans' thirst could be quenched more easily and inexpensively if municipalities provided reliable drinking water.

"The state has contributed to these companies taking over the market and converting drinking water into a saleable product," said Alejandro Calvillo, the head of Power to the Consumer, a nonprofit Mexican advocacy group.

Calvillo's group estimates that the average Mexican family spends $140 a year on bottled water, much of it in 5-gallon plastic jugs that are commonly delivered to homes. The expense puts a heavy burden on low-income families, he added.

In impoverished neighborhoods in outlying Mexico City, scores of private water companies have popped up, offering large jugs of water for 10 pesos, or about 77 U.S. cents, a third of the price of water from the multinational companies. Such concerns face few inspections, giving consumers water of indeterminate quality.

Further, most Mexican consumers refuse to separate plastic products for recycling, and those who seek to recycle can struggle to find places that'll accept post-consumer plastic.

"The corporations make the consumers responsible for recycling," Rosas Landa said. "They produce the containers, but don't take responsibility for recycling the bottles."

A Houston-based recycling services company, Avangard Innovative Ltd., joined with a Mexican environmental services company last year to open a $35 million recycling plant in Toluca to handle PET, polyethylene terephthalate, the strong, light plastic that's resistant to heat and impermeable to carbonation, making it perfect for beverages.

Still, Calvillo said: "A large part of the PET bottles that are collected are sent to China for recycling." The Chinese plants grind PET bottles into fibers for use in carpeting and other consumer products to sell to countries such as Mexico.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Danone implicated in Indonesian spring depletion

Bottled water firms should be held responsible: Wahli

Wahyoe Boediwardhana , The Jakarta Post, Malang, East Java
May 26, 2010

Deforestation on the slopes of Mt. Arjuna in Pasuruan regency has reached alarming levels and private companies benefiting from its natural resources need to take responsibility, says the Each Java branch of the Indonesian Forum for the Environment (Walhi).

Purnawan Dwikora Negara, a Wahli coordinator in East Java, said that deforestation posed dangers to people living around the forest.

Data shows that of the 15,600 hectares of protected forest area, about 3,400 hectares are damaged and categorized as critical, in addition to another 402 hectares that were burned in 2009.

"What makes it alarming is the damaged forest has functioned as a water catchment area that supplies springs and underground water reserves," Purnawan said recently, adding that reforestation efforts by plating trees must be urgently pursued.

Private companies, such as bottled water companies, have also benefited from the springs and must be held responsible and pay compensation to the community, he said.

There are 14 bottled water companies operating at Mt. Arjuna, including PT Tirta Investama, with its product Danone Aqua. The company has been granted a concession that allows it to take water at a rate of 50 liters per second from the Pandaan water spring.

Around 1,500 truck tanks, each holding a capacity of 5,000 liters, carry water from the water springs in Mt. Arjuna to be sold to Surabaya, Sidoarjo, and Pasuruan.

While exploiting the water resources, the companies have criticized for their lack of environmental conservation. Several companies have implemented corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs, but groups such as Wahli say the results have been minimal so far.

For Walhi, companies should be obliged to allocate 60 percent of its revenue for reforestation.

"Take it as an environmental fee because they get everything for free," Purnawan said.

However, the CSR manager for Danone Aqua in the East Java region, Arief Fatullah, denied suggestions his company was not giving back. He said they planted 30,000 seedlings from 2008-2009, which would be followed by another 50,000 this year.

"We are also implementing foster forest programs in a total area of 72 hectares. That's part of the Arjuna Mountain forest conservation," Arief said.

He said the company had spent Rp 2 billion on its CSR program in East Java, but Purnawan said the sum was not comparable to the company's huge revenue.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Speaking out against bottled water in Pakistan

More than half of bottled water brands unfit for use

Thursday, April 29, 2010
By Shahid Husain


As many as 12 out of the 22 brands of bottled water sold in Pakistan were “unsafe for human consumption,” Naeem Sadiq, an activist of Shehri-Citizens for a Better Environment (Shehri-CBE) said on Wednesday, while citing a 2004 report of the science and technology ministry’s Pakistan Council for Research in Water Resources (PCRWR).

During a lecture at the office of the Urban Resource Centre (URC), Sadiq said that these brands were found to be unsafe by none other than the government of Pakistan due to poor microbiological and chemical quality. Small wonder then, that on December 31, 2004, the Supreme Court of Pakistan was compelled to take a serious view of the report, he said, adding however, that sadly, one finds various unsafe brands of bottled water being marketed with impunity in the impoverished country.

On November 30, 2004, the Sindh High Court (SHC) also made history when it restrained an international water company from providing water in “Education City” at the Super Highway, Karachi, for American soldiers fighting the “war on terror” in Afghanistan, he said.

Had the SHC not done this, the Gadap aquifer would have been drained, affecting the lives and livelihood of the local population.

Sadiq said that as many as 200 billion bottles of water were produced across the world every year for a whopping $50billion business. One liter of bottled water in Pakistan costs 30 times more than the same amount of tap water, he added.

Bottled water means environmental degradation of the worst and involved the wastage of precious resources, Sadiq said. Around 200 billion plastic bottles are produced across the world every year and only 20 per cent of them are re-cycled, which is perhaps why the developed world, which is short of landfills, has found the developing world to be an ideal dumping ground of plastic waste, he said.

“Bottled water is one of the biggest scams of our time,” he said. Common folk and the elite alike are given the impression that bottled water was “pure” “safe” and “fresh” and has pristine labels — this, however, is a farce, Sadiq claimed.

Bottled water was first introduced in Pakistan in 1968, and amazingly, while the worldwide growth of bottled water was 24 per cent per annum; it was 40 per cent per annum in Pakistan, he said, adding that common folk were finding it increasingly difficult to get water in Pakistan.

Four factors push the demand for bottled water: exaggerated fear of tap water; seduction of mineral water bottles; corruption of the government; and the greed of the corporate sector, Sadiq said. The Karachi Water & Sewerage Board (KWSB) has a foreign debt of Rs 42 billion and no donor is ready to help anymore, he said.

“The plain truth is that there is no water shortage in Karachi because it receives 695 million gallons every day,” Sadiq said, adding however, that a major chunk of this is lost due to theft, pilferage and faulty lines.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Coke's Chinese Greenwash

Hurdler twists bottles for environment
April 28, 2010
China Daily - Hong Kong Edition

Star hurdler Liu Xiang's popularity and influence among sports fans earned him another special role on Monday in Shenzhen as he joined in an environment protection campaign as an ambassador.

The "I Twist for Green" campaign was launched by Coca-Cola's drinking water brand, ICE Dew, which features eco-friendly, lightweight bottles for consumers.

The bottles are specially designed so they can be easily twisted and compressed after consumption, thereby saving more than 70 percent of the space needed while the bottle makes its way to recycling.

"It's very interesting. The bottle shows us environmental protection can be really simple and fun," said Liu. "I have to drink a lot during training and the bottle gives me the chance to do something for environmental protection. Everyone should be part of it."

Liu revealed some good habits in daily life.

"I ride my bicycle from home to my training base. I have also told my family and friends to drive less. Besides, I also try to save water every day."

The Ice Dew lightweight bottle will be launched in Shenzhen, Xi'an, Xiamen, Nanjing, Hangzhou and other cities in May and then throughout the country.

The launch also comes in time for the Shanghai Expo and, with Coca-Cola as a sponsor and beverage partner, the lightweight bottle will be available to the expected 70 million visitors.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Pepsico's 'purity' claim challenged

Pepsico's 'purity' claim challenged
March 24, 2010
Hindustan Times

New Delhi, March 24 -- Does the phrase "purity guaranteed" mislead you while purchasing packaged drinking water?

The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) believes it does. The bureau has even moved the Supreme Court to restrain Pepsico from using the phrase on its packaged water under the brand, Aquafina.

BIS has challenged a Delhi High Court verdict that allows the multinational to print "purity guaranteed" on its packaged water bottles. Water is not a single homogenous unit like petrol or oil and cannot be termed as pure, BIS has argued in its appeal against High Court judgment, permitting use of the "objectionable expression".

BIS's appeal states that pure water would only be distilled water used in batteries, which is not fit for human consumption. Hence, the use of words such as "pure" and "purity guaranteed" on packaged drinking water is a misnomer.

Water sold in packaged form, says BIS, is derived from any source of potable water and is later subjected to treatments, such as decantation, filtration, aeration and other methods to meet the prescribed standards.

"It may be disinfected by means of chemical agents or physical methods to reduce the micro-organisms to a level that would not lead to contamination in the drinking water, but a level that does not compromise food safety or suitability," reads the BIS appeal.

It adds the multinational organizations in trade or commerce are duty bound to take precautions and safeguards to promote and protect the rights of human beings, including their health and safety.

"Restrictions on the use of trade marks to achieve the said objectives is fair and reasonable," says BIS.Published by HT Syndication with permission from Hindustan Times.