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Coke Pays for Pollution
 
S. Rajagopalan
Hindustan Times
December 31, 2005

Washington: The controversy over Coca-Cola's environmental and labour practices in India and Colombia has led to the suspension of its $1.4 million contract with the University of Michigan, one of the bigger universities in the US with over 40,000 students on the rolls.

The suspension follows a year-long campaign by student and environmental groups, who have charged the soft drink giant with depleting the water table in India and discharging harmful sludge containing cadmium. In Colombia, it has been accused of unfair labour practices.

Coke, while denying all the allegations, had broadly agreed for a third party audit last June, but failed to carry out the requisite actions to the satisfaction of the university authorities by the target date of December 31. "A protocol for reviewing the environmental concerns in India has not yet been developed," senior university officials said. In respect of Colombia, the company reportedly did not agree to the protocol that was recommended.

Amit Shrivastava of the India Resource Centre (IRC), an international campaign group that worked closed with Michigan students, said the suspension of the contract "will send a strong message to Coca-Cola that it must clean up its act".

Coca-Cola spokesperson Kari Bjorhus commented: "We are working with the university to address concerns.

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