Rajasthan Villagers Demand Closure of Coca-Cola Plant
June 5, 2004

Jaipur, June 5 : Environment activists joined residents of a parched Rajasthan village Saturday to demand the closure of a Coca-Cola plant that is alleged to be responsible for the depleting water table.

Some 2,000 demonstrators, comprising activists, villagers and farmers, voiced their anger at the aerated drink bottling plant in Kaladera, some 45 km from here, by saying that it was responsible for a sharp drop in the area's water table.

The district administration had made elaborate arrangements, with police deputed in large numbers to ward off any untoward incident. It had also banned congregation of people near the factory.

"I don't know why the administration made such a fuss over it," said Sawai Singh, convenor of Jan Sangarsh Samiti, Rajasthan.

"We only wanted to organise a peaceful meeting."

The NGO is spearheading the movement against the cola major in Kaladera.

The protest meeting was held about a kilometre from the bottling plant and was addressed by about 10 speakers. Shops in the area downed their shutters in support of the demand for the plant's closure.

"We want the government to look into our demands soon," said Ramesh, a local farmer, adding, "We are requesting the government to close the bottling plant or shift it to some other place since it has led to an acute water crisis in the area."

The villagers of this state with an annual average rainfall of only 50 cm hold the factory, set up in 1999 as part of state's special drive to attract foreign investment, responsible for a sharp drop in the water table in and around the area.

"If the government does not listen to our demand we would decide our future course of action in the next few days. This would include organising a march from Jaipur to Kaladera to mobilise support for our cause," added Sawai Singh.

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