Why is Coca-Cola allowed to bottle 300,000 gallons of water per day in a town that doesn’t have enough clean tap water for its residents to drink?
Water shortage. What does it mean to you? Not watering your grassy lawns? Shortened showers? Loading up on gallons of bottled water? For the residents of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Mexico, it means drinking Coca-Cola, almost exclusively. And it’s causing as much devastation as the actual water shortage.
In this mountain town, some residents only have running water a few times a week, forcing them to buy water from tanker trucks for daily use. With rapid urbanization, crumbling infrastructure, and climate change straining the wells that once hydrated the entire city, clean potable water is becoming more and more of a rarity.
Without a wastewater treatment plant, raw sewage flows directly into their precious waterways, tainting them with potential pathogens. Yet the local Coca-Cola plant, owned by Mexican beverage giant Femsa, is permitted to legally extract 300,000 gallons of the town’s clean water each day in order to dye it, sweeten it, and turn it into soda, leaving less for residents to live off of.
With such a strain on the local water supply, what do the residents mostly drink? Soda. The local bottling plant has made soda more plentiful than and as cheap as bottled water. As a result, the residents of this Chiapas town tend to drink about 2 liters of Coca-Cola every single day.
And with sneaky ads manipulating residents into drinking more and more soda instead of water, huge numbers of people are getting sick.
Diabetes in the southern Mexican town increased by a whopping 30 percent between 2013 and 2016. The preventable disease now causes 3,000 deaths each year—a significant portion of the less than 200,000 person population. It is the second-leading cause of death in the small town and afflicts nearly every family.
San Cristóbal de las Casas residents are protesting, but Coca-Cola executives refuse to accept the blame.
According to the New York Times, an executive for Femsa “rejected criticisms that the company’s beverages have had a negative impact on public health. Mexicans, he said, may have a genetic proclivity toward diabetes.”
Coke and Femsa would have you believe that there is nothing wrong with drinking two liters of soda every day—and that it definitely doesn’t cause diabetes.
According to local activist, Martin López López, in a statement, “Coca-Cola is abusive, manipulative. They take our pure water, they dye it and they trick you on TV saying that it’s the spark of life. Then they take the money and go.”
While the plant does contribute to the local economy, a bit of economic stimulation isn’t worth losing thousands of lives each year. Humans need clean water to drink. No human should be manipulated or forced into consuming more soda than water.