Having no drinking water is a grave threat to the health of residents – but preferring fizzy drinks over bottled water is even worse.
In San Cristóbal de las Casas, a town situated in the southeastern state of Chiapas, portable water is scarce. In the water deprived town, some people get access to running water but that also happens just a few times a week. Because of this shortage, several households are forced to buy extra water from tanker trucks at an expensive price.
Some residents used to walk for two hours and fetch water from the wells. However, now that is also not an option, all thanks to Coca-Cola. A bottling plant situated near by the town, consumed 1.08 million liters of water a day in 2016, according to reports. The plant was run by Mexican company FEMSA.
After two years, the situation is still pretty much the same. The plant has permission to extract 300,000 gallons of water a day, as part of a contract FEMSA has with the government.
Naturally this means big profits for Coca-Cola in Chiapas, but it comes at a price of compromising human life.
“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.
Not only has the soft drink plant dried out the wells of the town, the residents also have no choice but to consume Coca-Cola to quench their thirst. The drink is easily available and costs as much as a bottle of drinking water.
This excess in consumption of the soft drink as an alternative to water is naturally unhealthy and diabetes have soared high in the Mexican town.
The mortality rate from diabetes in Chiapas reportedly soared by 30 percent between 2013 and 2016 and diabetes is now the second-leading cause of death in the state after heart ailments, claiming more than 3,000 lives every year.
“Soft drinks have always been more available than water,” said Abadía. The 35-year-old security guard also suffered with obesity and diabetes like her parents.
A doctor at the clinic in San Juan Chamula, a nearby farming town, said health care workers were facing a lot of problems while dealing with the increasing rates of diabetes in residents. “When I was a kid and used to come here, Chamula was isolated and didn’t have access to processed food,” said Vicente Vaqueiros.
“Now, you see the kids drinking Coke and not water. Right now, diabetes is hitting the adults, but it’s going to be the kids next. It’s going to overwhelm us,” he added.
However, Coca-Cola denied these accusations, saying they were unfairly being maligned for water shortage which is a result of poor planning, a lack of government investment enabling the city’s infrastructure to crumble and climate change.
“Coca-Cola is abusive, manipulative,” said Martin López 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.”
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