National Green Tribunal (NGT) has imposed more than Rs 25 crore fine on two beverage manufacturers who bottle Coca Cola and Pepsi in Uttar Pradesh for overexploitation of groundwater.
The NGT said the condition of groundwater is already, "seriously alarming" and imposed an environmental compensation of Rs 1.85 crore on Moon Beverages Ltd located at Greater Noida, Rs 13.24 crore on Moon Beverage Ltd’s Sahibabad unit and Rs 9.71 crore on Varun Beverages Ltd’s Greater Noida unit.
The tribunal was hearing a complaint filed by Sushil Bhatt against Moon Beverages Ltd and Varun Beverages Ltd on the issue of extraction of groundwater in an "indiscreet and arbitrary manner".
NGT found both manufacturers were guilty of "illegal extraction of groundwater and failed to ensure its recharge" while criticizing the "continuous laxity" on the part of authorities as a "matter of serious concern".
The NGT found that the two manufacturers did not have a ‘No Objection Certificate’ from Central Ground Water Authority (CGWA) for extraction of groundwater, though their units are situated in notified “over-exploited” areas where abstraction of groundwater cannot be permitted.
Further, the plants were found to be violating the Uttar Pradesh Ground Water (Management and Regulation) Act, 2019 which prohibits direct recharge from rainwater, falling on open land, grounds, roads and agricultural farms.
The tribunal said that Moon Beverages Ltd, and Varun Beverages were indulged in direct recharge, while they "are not saddled with any such liability and continuing with such illegal act".
Moon Beverages Ltd also manufactured plastic bottles for packaging of drinking water, however, the unit has not registered for the Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) Certification and violated plastic waste management rules.
The bench was headed by NGT Chairperson Justice A K Goel and has ordered to constitute a joint committee to conduct a survey in UP and prepare data of various categories drawing groundwater for commercial purposes.
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