Coca-Cola improves access to water for rural communities

World Water Day is celebrated on March 22 and the theme this year is ‘Valuing Water’, which focuses on the environmental, social and cultural value people place on water, aligned to Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) No. 6; ensuring water and sanitation for all is perfectly embodied by the water replenishment projects undertaken by Coca-Cola.

Water is central to the long-term success of Coca-Cola’s business and the health of its communities. The company has taken on the mantle of respecting and protecting water resources while ensuring water security for the nation.

Globally, Coca-Cola has pledged to return 100% of the water used in its manufacturing back to communities and nature. In Sri Lanka, the beverage company has exceeded the goal by reaching 203% water replenishment status. This implies that for every litre of water used for the production of its beverages, the company returns 2 litres of water to communities and nature through local water initiatives.

Mayank Arora, Managing Director, ‎Coca-Cola Beverages Sri Lanka Ltd., explained: “We set a goal to return 100% of the water we use to make our drinks. Today we’ve achieved that goal and even gone beyond, being the first Coca-Cola operation to do so in South West Asia. Water stewardship remains a key focus for us and I am pleased to state on World Water Day that we look forward to continuing this important work that addresses critical water related issues, which include safe water access and watershed protection, which are locally relevant and thereby empower local communities across Sri Lanka.”

Access to water is at the forefront of the agenda of the present Government; in 2020, following His Excellency, President of Sri Lanka’s instructions to rehabilitate 5000 tanks across the island, water has been earmarked as a key national priority. Aligning with the national directive, Coca-Cola in Sri Lanka embarked on key water replenishment projects rehabilitating ancient water tanks in partnership with INGOs, We Effect in Anuradhapura and ACTED in Monaragala, both of whom have a proven track record in working in rural areas to improve quality of life in those communities.

Commenting on the company’s water stewardship, Pankaj Sinha, Managing Director – Sri Lanka & Maldives said, “Our water stewardship program is focused on respecting water as a shared resource. We support the Sustainable Development Goals and are partnering to help create opportunity for people through access to safe and improved water services in Sri Lanka. Our operations in Sri Lanka turned water positive in a special year when Coca-Cola celebrates its 60th Anniversary in Sri Lanka. We remain committed to keep supporting the local community to manage water resources, better.”

We Effect undertook the rehabilitation of two ancient water reservoirs in the village of Thammannawa, Anuradhapura, resulting in water replenishment of 275 million litres per year. The renovation of two ancient water reservoirs restored uncultivated lands in both paddy fields and home gardening and allowed villagers to cultivate their paddy lands in both the Yala and Maha seasons and double their income. As a part of the project, a Reverse Osmosis plant was also provided to the village cooperative which improved access to safe and clean drinking water. Coca-Cola Beverages Sri Lanka Ltd. was recently awarded a Best Sustainability Project Award at The Best Corporate Citizen Sustainability Awards 2020, organized by the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce for this project.

Rural communities especially have a deep connection with water as it nurtures their livelihoods and empowers communities to aspire to a brighter future. Access to water for agriculture and livelihoods for women in the Galahitiya village in Monaragala was a valuable outcome. ACTED rehabilitated the Samurdhi tank and provided water pumps which benefited approximately 400 households and 1,700 local farmers. As a result of the project, an additional 100 acres of paddy field can now be cultivated during both the dry and wet season, in addition to 150 acres for field crops such as maize, grains and vegetables. This project has the replenish potential of 100 million litres annually.

Encouraged by the positive impact of its water stewardship on marginalized communities, Coca-Cola aims to continue sustaining its water replenishment projects to give back more and more water to nature and communities.

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