This was a post from 2012, that had got deleted. Resurrected from waybackmachine.
I got this Letter thru email and the saw that it had been posted on a blog as well
Update: Please read Climate Change, Food Security & Virtual Water an Asymmetric Threat to Sri Lanka which articulates this whole issue in a bigger picture context.
Excerpts from the email from Feisal Mansoor (fmansoor at sltnet.lk)
Dabur plan to make 280,000 cases (1 litre x 12 per case) of fruit based beverages a month. So we are talking about a minimum of 280,000 x 12 = 3,360,000* litres of liquid per month.Basically Dabur is going to use about about 10.5 million gallons a year. That is a 32 foot depletion of groundwater from an acre (See gallons to acre feet) . Anyway you look at it that is a lot of water, which could take decades to replenish /recharge. (more about groundwater depletion here). Groundwater recharge in Sri Lanka is anywhere from 11 mm/year to 80 mm/year according to a study by R.P. de Silva. Based on simplistic assumptions, that means the ground water used by Dabur in one year, can take from 120 years to 1000 years to be recharged.
Kamy Melwani of Neo Synthesis Research has made it plain to me that Dabur have done insufficient research because what we have in our region is a rock based rain fed aquifer, which explains why my bore hole dried up so quickly. The Water Engineer who specified and dug the well told me I would get 50,000 litres per day. In fact I got nothing like this and it dried up within two weeks. The National Water Supply and Drainage Board came and tested the well for me and they too told me it was not viable. I had to abandon it.
No EIA (Environmental Impact Assessment) has been conducted on the land and Dabur have easily side stepped the intent and purpose of our legislation.
I have been expecting this from our neighbors, including the eastern Middle east. Dole, the largest multinational is also here with I think 2500 acres in the Buttala Pelwatte region. i.e. we have a resource, water, in the form of rain and groundwater that India and the ME have in increasingly in short supply.
Artificial groundwater recharge is becoming increasingly important in India, where over-pumping of groundwater by farmers has led to underground resources becoming depleted. In 2007, on the recommendations of the International Water Management Institute, the Indian government allocated Rs 1800 crore (US$400million) to fund dug-well recharge projects (a dug-well is a wide, shallow well, often lined with concrete) in 100 districts within seven states where water stored in hard-rock aquifers had been over-exploited.I agree about investment to develop, but increasingly the model seems like the the Middle East in the early 1900's. Till a few decades back all the oil companies in the Middle east (and other Latin American countries) were American/European. The product was extracted, a nominal royalty fee paid, shipped out of the producer country and value added products including refinery/plastics done in Europe/America. Valid arguments for this model are that the technology and the skilled labor only existed in the West at that time.
The benefits of groundwater are obvious. But so are the dangers. Overuse can cause severe problems. On the coast of Gujarat, in west India, for example, farmers benefited hugely from groundwater during the 1960s and 1970s, earning this coastal strip the name ‘the Green Creeper’. But the prosperity was short-lived. Too much freshwater was withdrawn too quickly. This caused salty seawater to be drawn up to 7 km inland, killing the region’s tubewell based economy. The story is similar in Yemen, where overuse caused the levels of the country’s aquifers to drop by up to 40 meters in 9 years. Now many farmers simply can’t drill deep enough to access the resource. (from IWMI Water Policy Briefs please read)
Our water, including groundwater is becoming an increasingly precious resource, just as much as petroleum became a natural resource with no value to an extremely valuable resource. The arguments that the skills and skilled labor needed for value added products (processed food, bottled water) are unavailable in Sri Lanka hold no water (pun intended). I can only see the possibility that investment is needed to full potential of the resources.
Assuming investment is needed to fully realize the potential of our precious resource, i.e grow food or industrial crops in the country there should be some guidelines, e.g.
a) Land lease time should be minimal,Above are photos of the Dole Entrance, and the banana plantation with paddy fields interspersed. The paddy fields belong to local farmers who have not sold out to Dole. See link from Mongobay on Satellite imagery for the Dole Plantation
b) If groundwater is used expected usage and amount of groundwater depletion becomes cost of lease (and compensation to neighbors)
c) Value added production should be done in the country, i.e drying fruit and packaging, bottled water etc, extraction/distillation.