Coca-Cola Parches Indigenous Lands
Indigenous people (known as adivasi in India) have launched a struggle against the Coca Cola's bottling plant at Plachimada in Palakkad District in Kerala, India, on April 22 with a blockade followed and picketing. C.K Janu, Chairperson of Adivasi Gothra Mahasabha and the Adivasi-Dalit Samara Samithy, inaugurated the struggle on 22 April in which over 1,300 people, mostly Adivasis belonging to the Eravalar and Malasar communities participated.
The Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Pvt. Ltd established this unit in 1998-99 in approximately 40 acre plot (previously multi-cropped paddy lands) at Plachimada. About 70 permanent workers and 150 casual labourers are employed in the factory. On an average, about 85 lorry loads of beverage products (Mirinda, Thums Up, Coca Cola besides Kinley Mineral Water), each load containing 550-600 cases and each case containing 24 300 ml bottles leave the factory premises every day.
- More than 60 borewells (besides 2 open wells) are sunk in the factory compound extracting some 1,500,000 litres of water.
- Processing activities including water purification, preparation of bottled drinks, cleaning of bottles -- generates a large quantity of contaminated waters and chemical waste besides plastic, paper, metallic and other solid waste.
- The plant is run on generators and not from the common electricity grid. The plant violates the Land Utilization Act because permission has reportedly not been obtained to convert agricultural lands for non-agricultural uses.
- The plant is located in an agricultural area surrounded by colonies of indigenous tribes and dalits (oppressed castes). At least 1,000 families belonging to Eravalar and Malasar tribal communities live in the vicinity. These families are predominantly landless and work as agricultural wage labourers.
- The Coca-Cola unit is reportedly planning to abandon the area and shift
their destructive factory to Anamalai in Pollachi taluk of adjacent Coimbatore District of Tamilnadu, located a few kilometres away.
- Groundwater has been severely contaminated. The water table extending to an area of a 5 km radius affecting some 1,000 families including 250 families of indigenous people -- has been severely depleted. The villages severely affected are the colonies of Adivasis and Dalits such as Plachimada, Vijayanagaram, Veloor and Madhavan Nair colonies in the Perumatty Panchayat and the Rajeev Nagar and Thodichipathy colonies in the Pattanamchery Panchayat facing acute water shortage and contaminated water. Salinity and hardness of water has increased. Scientific analysis of the water shows that the water contains very high levels of hardness and salinity with high concentrations of calcium and magnesium that render the water unfit for human consumption, domestic use (bathing and washing), and for irrigation.
- The factory initially claimed that the large quantity of foul smelling semi-liquid and dry sedimented slurry waste was actually disposed off to farmers as good fertilizer!
This has spread the contamination besides causing skin problems. The waste has been indiscriminately dumped along the bank canals and within the factory premises. Reports also indicate that the wastes have been indiscriminately dumped on public lands.
- Cultivation of paddy in over 600 acres of land has been abandoned forcing farmers to experiment with other crops severely affecting the employment opportunities of the Adivasis who depend on wage labour for survival.
Three months back, there was a symbolic protest march held by the Adivasi Samrakshana Sangham (Adivasi Protection Front) against the Coca-Cola Plant. Subsequently an intense struggle was launched on April 22nd by C.K Janu of the Adivasi-Dalit Samara Samithy and Adivasi Gothra Mahasabha. The struggle is being carried out despite threats to life of the activists by (interestingly) the local party leaders and workers belonging to the CPM, BJP, Congress, Janatha Dal who function more as agents of Coca-Cola. There are allegations that former MLAs and the present MLA have been beneficiaries of largesse from Coca-Cola. Police has been deployed heavily and stationed in front of the criminal Coca-Cola unit for its protection from the people.
On 30 April, the Coca-Cola unit distributed water in tanker lorries to the adjacent colonies, which is itself, an admission of guilt. There has been support to the struggle led by the Adivasis from the non-Adivasis in the region and their participation
is becoming active.
- Immediate closure of the Coca-Cola Factory
- Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Pvt. Ltd be held fully responsible and liable for the destruction of livelihood resources of the people and the environment
- Initiate criminal action against Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Pvt. Ltd
- Compensation to all those adversely affected by the Coca-Cola Unit
What you Can Do
- Share this information with all those concerned about survival rights, human rights, environmental rights and the predatory nature of globalisation and multi-national companies.
- Organise protests against Coca-Cola
- Organise campaigns for a boycott of all Coca-Cola products
Yours in struggle
Coca-Cola Virudha Janakeeya Samara Samithy
Kannimari P.O, Palakkad District
Kerala, India 678 534
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