Protests Against Pepsi, Coke in Lucknow
June 9, 2004

Lucknow, June 9: NGO activists began a two-day protest here Wednesday to demand the closure of bottling plants of soft drinks giants Coca-Cola and Pepsi that were allegedly causing water shortage in different parts of Uttar Pradesh.

Members of the National Alliance of People's Movement (NAPM), a group headed by Magsaysay award winner Sandeep Pandey, claimed the plants were rapidly depleting groundwater resources across India's most populous state.

The protestors gathered near the statue of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel at Lucknow's busiest thoroughfare.

Pandey said: "About 1,000 people affected by Coca-Cola bottling plants in Mehdiganj and Sinhachawar and the Pepsi-Cola bottling plant in Sathariya converged here to participate in the sit-in demonstration."

The protestors demanded the state government cancel the licence of these three plants.

"We also demand that the central government should ban these two companies from India because they are responsible for causing water shortage in each of the cities where they had set up their plants," said a NAPM spokesman.

"Since they draw large quantities of groundwater, they are depleting the natural resource."

The spokesman noted the Kerala High Court had recently restricted a Coca-Cola plant from exploiting groundwater resources. People living near the plant in Kerala had to fetch water from three kilometres away as the groundwater source near the plant had dried up, he said.

Pandey alleged that sludge released from the bottling plants as fertilizer had proved to be very harmful to crops.

He claimed when the sludge was examined at the University of Exeter in Britain, cadmium and lead were found in the sludge from the Coca-Cola plant in Kerala.

Pandey wondered why the two beverage giants had been allowed to remain in the country after a joint parliamentary committee had upheld the findings of the Delhi-based Centre for Science and Environment that both Pepsi and Coca-Cola drinks contained traces of pesticides.

He asserted the two companies had failed to provide large-scale employment as none of the plants had more than 50 to 70 employees on regular rolls. The rest of the employees were contractual labourers, he claimed.

"On the other hand, they have displaced more people from small jobs like selling lemon-water, sugarcane juice, lassi, sattu ki lassi, aam ka panna and even plain water," Pandey said.

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