Coca-Cola Plant's Closure Demanded in Rajasthan
Indo-Asian News Service
July 7, 2004

Jaipur: Protests against a Coca-Cola bottling plant in Rajasthan are getting louder, with NGOs and villagers blaming it for a sharp decline in groundwater levels.

They want the plant, situated in Kaladera, 40 km from here in central India, to be shut down.
Banwari Lal Sharma, national convenor of the Aazadi Bachao Aandolan (ABA), or Save Our Freedom Movement, charged that the plant was drawing about 300,000 to 400,000 litres of underground water daily.

"The electricity department's records state that previously the water table of Kaladera was at 20-25 feet and water could be drawn by a motor of three horsepower. But now the water table has gone down to 100-125 feet and it can now only be drawn with a motor of 10-12 horsepower".

Besides ABA, Jan Sangarsh Samiti (People's Struggle) and Kaladera Vikas Samiti (Kaladera Development Society) are among some of the NGOs fighting for the plant's closure. They are trying to make villagers aware of the environmental hazards posed by the Coca-Cola plant.

Sharma said due to overdrawing of underground water by the Coca-Cola factory, farmers in nearby villages were suffering loses of Rs.20,000-Rs.25,000 per year. Previously, the per hectare yield in this area was four tonnes and now it has been reduced to three tonnes.

"We want this plant to go from here," said Ladu Ram, a farmer. "It is affecting our crops," he said angrily.

"We are requesting the government to close the bottling plant or shift it to some other place," he said.

The desert state of Rajasthan gets an annual average rainfall of only 50 cm.

The villagers hold the plant - set up in 1999 as part of the state's drive to attract foreign investment - responsible for a sharp drop in the water table in and around the area.

Voluntary organisations have formed campaign movements, protest groups, in nearby villages and are going in for signature campaigns in villages.

"We also plan to involve schoolchildren in our exercise and plan to hold a march from Jaipur to Kaladera to gather support for our cause on August 9 (Quit India Movement Day), if the state government does not close the plant," Sharma said.

On May 5, around 2,000 people had gathered near the Coca-Cola plant in Kaladera and raised their voice demanding closure of the plant.

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