Thursday, January 26, 2017

Is Banning Coke/Pepsi the solution?

Disclaimers:

1. I support Jallikattu and had even posted my thoughts about it here - "Jallikattu needs your support"
2. It's been almost 3 years since I stopped consuming any aerated drinks (Coke, Pepsi, Fanta, ThumsUp, Limca, Sprite etc.,). So I always request people to stop drinking any aerated drinks and instead drink Tender coconut, buttermilk, Fresh juices (without ice or sugar :) ) etc.,

What is the reasoning for asking a BAN?

From what I understand, the reason as to why protesters are asking for a ban is because of the depletion of Thamirabarani river. The depletion that is caused by these companies affect farmers and other people in the surrounding locality. Drought kind of situation is staring us. So the root cause is "water scarcity".

My 2 cents:

Definitely, we got to support our farmers who are the backbone of our country and if something is affecting them then everyone should do our bit to clear the hurdle for them.

While thinking about it the questions which came to my mind are:

-  "Are these companies the only reason for water scarcity?"

- "Who is responsible for ALL encroachment on all our water bodies in Tamil Nadu?" - Shouldn't we Ban encroachments & restore those water bodies?

- "Why selectively Ban Pepsi & Coke alone? Why not other companies which manufacture aerated drinks?" - If the product is the issue, shouldn't one avoid all aerated drinks? As we all know Bovonto is a local Tamil Nadu based company which is there since 1916 and have avoided numerous attempts by other giants to take over them & survived. But at the end of the day, they too manufacture aerated drink only? And they would as well be sucking water from somewhere so won't it affect that locality?

- "What do we do with bottled mineral water like Aquafina (Pepsi), Kinley (Coke)?"

- "After encroachments, the other main culprits are Sand Mining but why isn't anyone serious about stopping it?" - This is actually changing course of river flow, groundwater collapses, rivers gets dried up etc.,

- "How much water is needed to manufacture 1 liter of bottled mineral water, soda, wine, beer & Hard alcohol?". In this October 2013 article (which is based on North American companies) I found these data points:
* 1 liter of bottled mineral water on an average needs 1.39 liter of water
* 1 liter of soda on an average requires 2.02 liters of water
* 1 liter of beer on an average needs 4 liters of water
* 1 liter of wine on an average needs 4.74 liters of water
* 1 liter of hard alcohol on an average requires 34.55 liters of water

I couldn't find any similar data points for Indian companies but I believe it gives us an idea of how much water is getting used to manufacture those products kept on the shelf of our Tasmac!

Though the "Water" problem is for real the proposed solution of selective banning doesn't seem to be a complete solution. To me, it sounds more like an emotional decision than a decision based on facts.

Newton's third law is: For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

By saying we are banning selected companies we would be sending a wrong signal. I am not very sure whether Tamil Nadu can survive without foreign investments and outsourced job in the present globalized environment?

- Aren't we fine with American outsourced jobs in India?
- Aren't we fine with our kids, relatives going for any of the university in the US for higher studies?
- As a reaction, if these companies lobby in the US and try to stop the import of Indian goods there what would we do?

So banning something is not a permanent solution. If those companies have flouted any rules then penalize them based on that. Also if we have proof stating it has pesticides and it's not safer for human consumption maybe take it up with Food safety & standards authority of India (or whoever is supposed to regulate it).

Possible solutions:

1. We have regulations in our system but are those getting really implemented properly? Got to monitor that. So the best place to start with would be to have better regulation and make sure the regulations are implemented properly.
2. Instead of banning we should work towards creating a better product than these and let them lose their market share.
3. Create awareness about the health hazards and educate our friends, relatives to stop using their products. When there is no market for them they themselves will move away.

Reference material for further reading:

1. Article about Sand Mining in Tamil Nadu
2. Quora discussion - Is Bovonto healthier than Pepsi/Coke?
3. Sand Mining issue - Impact cannot even be calculated
4. How much water is needed to make manufacture 1 liter of mineral water, wine, beer, hard alcohol?

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