Diesel Is Flowing Down The Kelani River & Coca Cola Is To Blame


We first heard of Coca Cola contaminating our water over a week ago. Eventually, the Central Environmental Authority confirmed that diesel has been mixed to the water of the picturesque Kelani river which is the main source of drinking water for Colombo and the Environmental Protection Licence granted to the factory was suspended. Coca Cola admitted to a leakage of a fuel pipe and said they ‘regret the accident’.

Most media houses in the country didn’t name a cause for the contamination (as if the water contaminated itself). Others used every thinkable euphemism- ‘a certain factory’, ‘a leading soft drink manufacturing company’, ‘a leading private carbonated beverage manufacturing plant’ – you name it (link below).


These are the very media houses that send us instant SMS news alerts/show live footage whenever a politico is summoned before the Bribery Commission or the FCID on charges of alleged corruption or misappropriation of funds. It was these very media houses that gave us live updates on prime-time news about the Colombo Port City project which also allegedly has a questionable environmental impact.

But it turns out, when a multinational pollutes one of the longest rivers in Sri Lanka and contaminates the water we drink, most media houses in Sri Lanka do not feel the need to share this information with us.

Why the double standards?

The whole incident mirrors influence multinationals have in countries like ours and how profit driven media houses would never report news that’ll cause them losses in terms of advertising revenue.

To be fair, some media houses did name Coke- like below. Good on them.


Information related to the environment and the use of natural resources is an important aspect of the Right to Information and media houses and journalists who advocate for these rights have an obligation to report on incidents such as this.

It is however, not clear if Coca Cola is behind the water supply suspension which happened today as well and whether there’s a link between the leak which happened initially and today’s water suspension but things seem to fall into place.

It’s tempting to jump on the anti-MNC bandwagon and demand for the banning/boycotting of Coca Cola (which probably won’t happen) but it’s hard to forget that these conglomerates are employers of thousands of hardworking Sri Lankans- who can’t afford to lose their jobs.

Coca Cola has exposed us to harmful pollution (sounds familiar?). It’s important to hold them accountable and make them compensate the government and any residents of Colombo who were affected. Coca Cola should own up to their mistake and issue a proper apology and adhere to the ‘highest ethical standards’ it claims to uphold. It’s time they walked the talk.

P.S. I didn’t go into why we need to call the quits to Coke altogether because that’s a whole different discussion. But that’s also a discussion we need to be having.  It was only in 2006 that the Indian state of Kerala banned the sale and production of Coke and Pepsi after a report claimed that the two companies sold beverages containing unacceptable amounts of pesticide, recently Tamil Nadu also said no to a Coca Cola Plant (but let’s save that conversation for later).

Senel Wanniarachchi

UPDATE: The Coca Cola PR reps got in touch with me and shared this statement with me:

‘Dear Senel,

As discussed please find a statement from Coca-Cola Beverages Sri Lanka Ltd below. I would like to reiterate that the Coca-Cola factory is not in production and we urge you to consider visiting our bottling plant in Biyagama to verify this.

Statement from Coca-Cola Beverages Sri Lanka Ltd

On 17th August, our staff noticed a leakage of diesel from a fuel pipe line. The leak was plugged immediately by the staff on night duty. However, by the time this leak was plugged, some oil had escaped into the nearby water body, through the storm water drainage system. We informed the local authorities as soon as we noticed it and took corrective and precautionary measures in consultation with them. As an immediate measure, several corrective measures were taken at the plant. This includes discontinuing the use of the affected fuel pipeline and temporarily blocking the affected storm water drainage. Services of an independent engineer was obtained to ascertain and verify the effectiveness of the corrective and preventive measures implemented.  Additionally, we initiated exhaustive preventive actions to avoid any such occurrence in the future and are cooperating with the authorities.

We also confirm that we are in receipt of a letter from the Central Environment Authority to temporarily halt operations at our plant and we have already complied with their request. We are currently in discussions with the Central Environmental Authority to recommence operations. The Coca-Cola Company has been in operation in Sri Lanka for over 50 years and wishes to reaffirm its commitment to the country and its consumers. We sincerely regret this accident and have already put in place several measures to prevent such an occurrence in the future.

Thank You
– See more at: http://adahas.lk/water-supply-suspended-coca-cola-is-probably-to-blame/#sthash.HfbPQMsX.dpuf