New Report Confirms Water Pollution By Coca-Cola in India

Coke's Losses Continue in India, Dropped by Major Investor

For Immediate Release
July 20, 2006

R. Ajayan, Plachimada Solidarity Committee (India) +91 98471 42513
Mrinalini, Hazards Centre (India) + 91 11-2671 4244
Amit Srivastava, India Resource Center (US) +1 415 336 7584 E: info@IndiaResource.org

San Francisco (July 20, 2006): The Coca-Cola company has severely polluted the groundwater around its bottling plant in Plachimada, South India, according to a new report released in New Delhi yesterday.

The Hazards Centre and the People's Science Institute tested nine water samples within a one kilometer radius of the Coca-Cola bottling plant in the south Indian state of Kerala and concluded that "the total natural water resources surrounding the Coca-Cola plant in Plachimada are contaminated."

All the water samples, collected from open wells, hand pumps and borewells in the area, failed to meet the safety standards for drinking water prescribed by the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) - ensuring that the groundwater was no longer suitable for human consumption.

All the samples showed excessive levels of chromium, eight samples showed excessive levels of cadmium and six samples showed excessive levels of lead. The water samples were collected in November 2005.

In addition to the risks posed to the community by the presence of heavy metals in the water, the report also cautioned that cadmium and lead can enter the body easily through the food chain.

The report also noted that the community did not experience water quality problems prior to the establishment of the Coca-Cola bottling plant, and that the deep aquifer systems have now been contaminated. The report also notes that agricultural production has been negatively affected in the area.

The report is the latest in a series of studies that have confirmed pollution by the Coca-Cola company. The Kerala State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) had also found high levels of lead and cadmium in the sludge from Coca-Cola's plant, and ordered the plant to "stop production of all kinds of products with immediate effect" on August 19, 2005.

The Coca-Cola bottling plant in Plachimada has remained shut down since March 2004, and the Coca-Cola company has challenged the closure in the courts. In spite of the growing body of evidence, the Coca-Cola company continues to maintain that there is no pollution by their plants.

The Coca-Cola company was also distributing its sludge to farmers in the area as fertilizer. Tests conducted in 2003 by the Central Pollution Control Board of India, as well as the British Broadcasting Corporation, confirmed that the sludge contained high levels of cadmium and lead, effectively making it toxic waste. Coca-Cola was forced to stop the distribution of the sludge by government authorities, and ordered to treat the waste as hazardous waste.

"The state must permanently shut down the Coca-Cola plant in Plachimada. The company has destroyed the natural resources in the area through negligence, and we will continue to demand that Coca-Cola be held responsible for the damages, including criminal and financial liability," said R. Ajayan of the Plachimada Solidarity Committee, an alliance of groups in the state of Kerala working actively to challenge the Coca-Cola company.

The Coca-Cola company has been the target of community campaigns across India accusing the company of creating severe water shortages and pollution around its bottling plants.

In related developments, the Coca-Cola company announced on Tuesday that its sales in India had dropped another 12% in the last quarter, adding to Coca-Cola's worries in India which it has identified as a key emerging market. Coca-Cola's sales in India have declined for eight consecutive quarters.

Also on Tuesday, the Coca-Cola company was ejected from the prestigious $8 billion TIAA-CREF Social Choice Account fund. The consultants to TIAA-CREF, KLD Research & Analytics, recommended the move because of the company's questionable environmental practices in India, labor problems in Colombia, and the continued marketing of soft drinks to children. TIAA-CREF is one of the largest financial services companies in the United States, with over $380 billion in assets.

The campaigns in India are also receiving tremendous support internationally, particularly with colleges and universities in the United States and United Kingdom campaigning to revoke Coca-Cola's contracts until they meet the demands of the communities.

"It is only a matter of time before Coca-Cola is forced to acknowledge and act on its mistakes in India," said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center, an international campaigning organization that works closely with Indian communities to apply pressure on Coca-Cola internationally. "We ask people to think before they drink, and given the facts, we are confident that people will refuse to drink Coca-Cola until it cleans up its act."

The report, "Ground Water Resources in Plachimada" detailing water pollution by the Hazards Centre and People's Science Institute can be found at www.IndiaResource.org/documents/PlachimadaReportWaterPollution.pdf

For information on the campaigns against Coca-Cola in India, visit www.IndiaResource.org


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