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No water? There's Coca-Cola

  • Published at 01:13 pm July 15th, 2018
Coca-Cola bottlesBigstock

In a Mexican town where water is scarce, each resident drinks more than two litres of soda a day

Water is increasingly scarce in San Cristóbal de las Casas, a picturesque mountain town in Mexico where some neighbourhoods have running water just a few times a week.

Many residents drink Coca-Cola, which is produced by a local bottling plant, as it is easier to find than bottled water and is almost as cheap, reports The New York Times.

Residents of San Cristóbal drink on average more than two litres of soda a day.

According to The New York Times, the effect on public health has been devastating. The mortality rate from diabetes in has increased 30% between 2013 and 2016, and the disease is now the second-leading cause of death in their state after heart disease, claiming more than 3,000 lives every year.

The singular culprit 

Buffeted by the dual crises of the diabetes epidemic and the chronic water shortage, residents of San Cristóbal have identified what they believe is the singular culprit: the hulking Coca-Cola factory on the edge of town.

The plant has permits to extract more than 300,000 gallons of water a day as part of a decades-old deal with the federal government while the town barely gets access to water.

Public ire has been boiling over. In April 2017, masked protesters marched on the factory holding crosses that read “Coca-Cola kills us” and demanding that the government shut the plant down.

“When you see that institutions aren’t providing something as basic as water and sanitation, but you have this company with secure access to one of the best water sources, of course it gives you a shock,” said Fermin Reygadas, the director of Cántaro Azul, an organization that provides clean water to rural communities.

“Coca-Cola is abusive, manipulative,” said Martin López, a local activist who has helped organize boycotts and protests against the soda company. 

“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.”

Coca-Cola pays a disproportionately small amount for its water privileges — about 10 cents per 260 gallons, according to The New York Times.

Meanwhile, Coca-Cola spokespersons rejected criticisms that the company’s beverages have had a negative impact on public health. Mexicans, they said, may have a genetic proclivity toward diabetes.