Rajasthan Village Protests Against Coke Plant
Harsha Kumari Singh
September 28, 2004

Kaladera: Rajasthan's Kaladehra village is tense after angry protests by villagers and activists against a Coca Cola bottling plant.

The demonstrators including Magsaysay award winner Aruna Roy say the water table in the area has fallen drastically because the soft drink company is drawing large amounts of ground water.

The Cola giant however says recent reports of the ground water board have established that water levels in villages around its plant are not lower than those in other parts of Jaipur.

Protestors against the Coca Cola factory in Kaladera were arrested by the police.

Water woes

Activists, who have agitated against Coca Cola in Benares and Kerala, have joined local villagers in Rajasthan to carry out a sustained campaign against the cola bottling plant alleging that it has seriously depleted ground water in the area.

"There's no water in the wells. Farmers are desperate for water. Then how is there water for Coca Cola?" says Om Prakash Kumawat, a panchayat official, Kaladera.

"On the grounds of health we oppose Coca Cola. It is nothing that gives us any nutrition, we have malnourished children, undernourished women, we have low anemic levels. We don't need Coca Cola here, we need milk, butter milk, dahi and ghee," says Aruna Roy, an activist of the Jan Sangharsh Samiti.

Coke refutes charges

But Coca Cola says recent reports by the state ground water board show that the fall in the water table in Kaladera is actually much less than other neighbouring areas.

For example the annual fall in the water table in Kaladera is 1.43 metres while in neighbouring Chomu village the decline is 2.92 metres

Of its four sanctioned tubewells, the plant uses only two.

And of the eight other industries in the area, Coca Cola claims it is the only one that runs a water harvesting programme.

"Apart from us no one has worked on water conservation, despite that people are targetting us," says Arjun Singh, a spokesman of the Coca Cola employees.

Other groups lobbying for Coke claim that it is unfair to target only Coca Cola in a state where other beverage companies also have similar bottling plants.

With public opinion divided on the issue, it looks like the debate on Coke will continue.

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