State Government Challenges Coca-Cola's Bottling Operation in India  

Declares Water Resources "Over-Extracted", Additional Clearances Sought

For Immediate Release
November 28, 2005

R. Ajayan, Plachimada Solidarity Committee (India) T: +91 98471 42513
Amit Srivastava, India Resource Center E: info@IndiaResource.org T: +44 7731 865 591 (UK) +1 415 336 7584 (US)

London (November 28, 2005): In a move that could shut down one of Coca-Cola's largest bottling plant in India permanently, the Kerala state government has notified the area where one of Coca-Cola's largest bottling plants is located, in Plachimada in Perumatty panchayat in southern India.

Having declared the area as "over-exploited" in its water resources, the state government notified the area under the Kerala Groundwater Control and Regulation Act- to regulate the use of groundwater due to scarcity.

As a result of the notification, Coca-Cola's bottling plant in Plachimada, which has remained shut down since March 2004 due to community pressure, will now have to seek additional clearances in order to draw groundwater.

The company must register its wells and borewells within four months to the newly formed Ground Water Regulatory Authority (GWRA). The GWRA will consider a variety of factors, including the impacts on the quantity and quality on the already scarce groundwater resource, before allowing the company to use the groundwater.

It seems unlikely that the Coca-Cola company will be granted permission to use groundwater as a result of water scarcity in the area.

In a statement released today, the Anti-Coca-Cola Struggle Committee and the Plachimada Solidarity Committee welcomed the move, stating, "It took the valiant sustained struggles of the people of Plachimada against the MNC giant Coca Cola and the widespread support for their just struggles within the state, across the country and globally that forced the government of Kerala to even activate this important law - a law passed to protect and preserve ground water to serve the common interests and basic needs of all the people of the state."

The groups are also demanding that the state government initiate criminal culpability and liability cases against the Coca-Cola company for "destruction of lives, livelihood, health and environment of the people in Plachimada and around the factory at Plachimada."

In another major setback for the Coca-Cola company, the Kerala High Court on November 17 rejected a petition by the company which challenged the actions of the Perumatty panchayat - the local village council. The panchayat had initially rejected Coca-Cola's license to operate because of hardships to the community, and subsequently offered Coca- Cola a conditional, three month license which the company refused. The company claimed that the village council erred in its actions, and that the company had a two year license as a result.

"These are major validations of the struggle by the people of Plachimada. Coca-Cola is losing the battle on substantive issues, and has now resorted to challenging the authorities and the people on technical issues, which it is also losing. Such a strategy is not sustainable," said C.R. Bijoy of the People's Union for Civil Liberties.

The campaign to hold Coca-Cola accountable for its crimes in India is receiving significant international support, with students and communities in the US, UK and internationally refusing to do business with the Coca-Cola company until it meets the demands of the communities in India.

"The Coca-Cola company should cease all efforts to re-open its plant in Plachimada, where it is clearly not welcome. The company must meet the demands of the communities in India or else the campaign to hold it accountable will continue to gain momentum," said Amit Srivastava of the international campaigning organization, India Resource Center.

Protests against Coca-Cola are widespread in India. A major rally is planned against another Coca-Cola bottling plant in India - in Mehdiganj in the northern state of Uttar Pradesh - on November 30 to protest water scarcity and pollution as a result of Coca-Cola's operations in the area.

For more information, visit www.IndiaResource.org


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