On issues that matter …

Water Wars August 29, 2012

Filed under: Uncategorized — Srirekha @ 3:18 pm
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At the World Water Week currently on (Aug 26-31) in Stockholm, beverage and snack food giant Pepsico has been awarded the 2012 Stockholm Industry Water Award in recognition of its innovative and outstanding water stewardship initiatives. A Pepsico communiqué released through PR Newswire states that the award honors the business sector’s contribution to sustainable water management, improved performance in production, and innovative approaches in water process technologies.

“This prestigious award is validation of our water conservation efforts,” said Indra Nooyi, Chairman and CEO of PepsiCo, on receiving the award. “Reducing our water usage drives cost reduction and reduces our overall environmental footprint, and so we’re innovating to make the most of every drop of water used.”

In recognizing PepsiCo’s water stewardship efforts, the Award jury cited its water management practices in its day-to-day operations in India: Direct seeding, an agronomic practice in paddy cultivation used in India. In that, rather than growing seedlings in a nursery, planting them, and then flooding farmers’ fields, direct seeding allows the seed to be planted directly into the ground, bypassing the nursery. This removes the need for flood irrigation, reducing water use  by as much as 30 percent.

To the cynic in me, the award to Pepsico comes as a no-brainer since the company happens to be one of the major corporate sponsors of the summit.

These initiatives, no doubt a statement of Pepsico’s corporate social responsibility, somehow fall short owing to the greater damage that is caused to local communities and the environment at large, by the world beverage industry.

An undergrad thesis on ‘Bottled Water’ cites World Bank estimates which peg the world bottled water market alone at $800 billion. The United States, the biggest market for bottled water and beverages, accounts of more than 30 billion bottled water bottles a year, according to the same researcher.

Imagine then, the effect of such mammoth corporatization of water, on emerging economies like India where more and more people are aping Western lifestyles owing to mass media influence.

Imagine the implications of rampant water harvesting on groundwater reserves, especially in countries like India where water is already a scarce commodity.

Remember the widespread protests in India about a decade ago against Coca-Cola for causing pollution and depletion of ground water, particularly in Kerala? That is what commercial bottling of water will lead to – scarcity in vast geographic regions.

At the same World Water Week summit, a major issue of discussion was water scarcity and its effects on food security. According to a Yahoo! News blog, the Stockholm International Water Institute has said that there would not be enough water available on current croplands to produce food for the expected 9 billion population in 2050 if people follow food trends common to western nations.

The blogger cites scientists at the summit who offered vegetarianism as an option to combat world water shortage in future. That sure would be drastic for many, I’d bet.

If you thought the next big calamity on earth would be a nuclear war, you are wrong of course. It would be a water war preceded by food riots.

Governments in general and consumers in particular should therefore understand that long before reserves of precious commodities like the yellow metal (gold) and black gold (oil) get exhausted, the most basic necessity for human survival, blue gold (water) will get depleted, and believe me, then, the bottled water industry would be to blame.

{Aquafina logo courtesy: Pepsico website}

Srirekha Chakravarty


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