State Agency Orders Coca-Cola to Shut Down

Coca-Cola Linked to Bribery Scandal

For Immediate Release
August 19, 2005

R. Ajayan, Plachimada Solidarity Committee (India) Tel: +91 98471 42513
Amit Srivastava, India Resource Center (India, US) E: info@IndiaResource.org T: +91 98103 46161 (India) +1 415 336 7584 (US)

Plachimada, India (August 19): In a major setback for the Coca-Cola company, the Kerala State Pollution Control Board has ordered the company's bottling plant in south India to "stop production of all kinds of products with immediate effect."

The Coca-Cola company, in direct contravention of Indian laws, had resumed "trial" operations at its Plachimada bottling facility in southern India on August 8, 2005. The bottling plant, one of Coca-Cola's largest, has been shut down since March 2004 because of community opposition.

The community is experiencing severe water shortages and the groundwater and soil have been polluted - directly as a result of Coca-Cola's operations.

The Kerala Pollution Control Board, in a 10 page order issued today, notes that the company has yet to explain the large amounts of cadmium in its sludge, which is contaminating the groundwater, making it unfit for human consumption. The Board further finds fault with the company as it has not abided by two previous orders - installing an effluent treatment facility for treating the wastewater and providing piped drinking water to community members affected by the company's over-extraction of water.

"We welcome the order of the Pollution Control Board which shuts the factory down," said R. Ajayan of the Plachimada Solidarity Committee which was largely responsible for approaching the health minister and the chairman of the Kerala Pollution Control Board to get the order. "Now we have to continue to work to with the state government to ensure that Coca-Cola abides by the order and there are no more violations from the company."

In a related development, the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau in Kerala raided the residences of Pollution Control Board member-secretary K.V. Indulal in three cities in Kerala on August 11, 2005. The Anti-Corruption Bureau is investigating Mr. Indulal for accepting bribes while he was a member of the Pollution Control Board.

The Coca-Cola campaign has maintained that Mr. Indulal was influenced by the Coca-Cola company when, in 2003, he visited Plachimada to investigate groundwater pollution by the company. After his "investigations", Mr. Indulal issued a clean chit to the Coca-Cola company, stating that the pollution was not "beyond tolerable limits." However, recent investigations by both the Kerala Pollution Control Board as well as the British Broadcasting Corporation had found extremely high levels of pollution in the area, and a subsequent Kerala Pollution Control Board study confirmed extremely high levels of cadmium.

Coca-Cola campaign activists had accused Mr. Indulal of suppressing evidence and taking bribes in order to favor the Coca-Cola company, which has resulted in the investigation and action by the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau.

The Coca-Cola company finds itself in deep trouble in India. Coca-Cola's sales have dropped 14% in the last quarter (April-June) in India, and the company is undergoing major reorganization in the country, including a change in the top leadership, in an effort to contain the growing opposition. The state government of Kerala recently announced that it will also challenge Coca-Cola's right to extract water from the common groundwater resource. The company also finds itself the target of local campaigns in at least three other communities, with literally tens of thousands of people mobilizing to challenge the company for creating severe water shortages and pollution.

"We welcome the actions by the state agencies in Kerala to stop the arrogance and criminal activities of the Coca-Cola company," said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center, an international campaigning organization. "These actions are major victories for the community of Plachimada, which has all along been demanding that the state do what it is supposed to do - safeguard the interests of the community."

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