Communities Protest Against Coca-Cola Plant in India

Government Data Confirms Drop in Groundwater Levels

For Immediate Release
June 6, 2007

Nandlal Master, Lok Samiti +91 94153 00520 (Hindi)
Amit Srivastava, India Resource Center +91 98103 46161 (India on June 6) +44 77477 47499 (UK on June 7, 8) E: info@IndiaResource.org

Varanasi (June 6, 2007): More than 400 people marched and rallied at the Varanasi District Magistrate's office yesterday demanding that the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Mehdiganj be shut down.

Braving the scorching heat, residents of more than twenty villages arrived in Varanasi to rally and deliver a letter to the District Magistrate, Mrs. Vina Kumari Meena, bringing attention to the growing water shortages in the area and pollution of the groundwater and land - directly as a result of Coca-Cola's bottling operations in Mehdiganj. The letter specifically asks for the closure of the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Mehdiganj.

Stop Stealing Water
Data from the Central Ground Water Board of India has confirmed that groundwater levels have dropped in the area since Coca-Cola started operations in the area in 1999. Pre-monsoon groundwater levels have dropped from 6.64 meters in 1999 to 8.34 meters in 2005, a drop of nearly 2 meters in just 6 years. Post monsoon groundwater levels have dropped from 3 meters in 1999 to 9 meters in 2005, a sharp drop of 6 meters in just six years since Coca-Cola began operations.

Contradicting government data, the Coca-Cola company claims that water levels have somehow risen in the area.

The area around the Coca-Cola bottling plant has also been declared a "dark zone" by Mr. Hakim Singh, director of the District Rural Development Agency (DRDA). A "dark zone" category implies that groundwater resources are overexploited, and more that 85% of the total recharging of groundwater resources is being extracted. As a result of the "dark zone" status, all new groundwater installations have to be approved by government authorities.

"When people themselves do not have enough water to meet their basic water needs, why should Coca-Cola be allowed to siphon hundreds of thousands of liters of water every day?" said Nandlal Master of Lok Samiti, the primary group spearheading the campaign to close Coca-Cola's bottling plant in Mehdiganj.

"The government must immediately act in the public interest and stop the Coca-Cola bottling plant from extracting groundwater," said Nandlal Master.

The Coca-Cola company extracts about half a million liters of water per day for the Mehdiganj bottling plant.

Go Back
The rally in front of the District Magistrate's office in Varanasi featured speeches, music, and plays, and was supported by a broad range of groups in Varanasi, including Sajha Sanskriti Manch.

The Coca-Cola bottling plant in Mehdiganj has also been found to be generating hazardous waste and polluting the water and soil. The Central Pollution Control Board of India tested the sludge at Coca-Cola's bottling plant in Mehdiganj in 2003, and ordered the company to treat its waste as industrial hazardous waste as a result of finding excessive levels of lead, cadmium and chromium. Prior to the CPCB order, the Coca-Cola company was distributing its sludge to farmers in the area as "fertilizer".

A subsequent study by the People's Science Institute and the Hazards Center in October 2006 found that both the water and the soil had been contaminated with heavy metals as a result of Coca-Cola's indiscriminate dumping of its toxic waste.

"It is a sad day when the Coca-Cola company announces a US$20 million project to supposedly conserve water around the world, while at the same time destroying the lives and livelihoods of thousands of farmers and their environment in India as a result of their abuse of water resources and pollution," said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center.

Referring to the US$20 million project announced by the Coca-Cola company and World Wildlife Fund, on June 5, 2007, Srivastava said, " Not cleaning up their act locally and announcing multi-million projects internationally is an attempt by the Coca-Cola company to paint a green image of itself that it clearly is not. It's greenwash."

For more information, visit www.IndiaResource.org


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