Criminal Charges Against Coca-Cola Likely in India
For Immediate Release
October 15, 2007
R. Ajayan, Plachimada Solidarity Committee +91 98471 42513 (India)
Amit Srivastava, India Resource Center +47 9881 3216 (Norway)
Thiruvananthapuram (October 15, 2007): The state
government of Kerala has initiated the process of filing criminal
charges against the Coca-Cola company for pollution.
In a notice to the Coca-Cola company on Friday, October 12, the Kerala
State Pollution Control Board has asked the company to show cause
as to why a criminal case should not be filed against it for polluting
The Coca-Cola company has two weeks to respond.
The action by the state government comes directly as a result of a
longstanding demand of the campaign that the Coca-Cola company must
also be held criminally liable for the damages it has caused in the
community of Plachimada in India.
Coca-Cola’s bottling plant in Plachimada, one of its largest in India,
has been shut down since March 2004 as a result of community opposition
to the plant. The community has accused the Coca-Cola bottling plant
of creating severe water shortages and polluting the water and the
soil – directly as a result of its operations in the area.
“We are encouraged by the action of the government to hold Coca-Cola
criminally liable for the damages it has caused in Plachimada,” said
R. Ajayan, convener of the Plachimada Solidarity Committee who was
key in getting the government to take action. “We are confident that
Coca-Cola will be prosecuted for the crimes it has committed in India.”
In typical fashion, the Coca-Cola company has dismissed the notice,
describing it as “unwarranted and arbitrary.” The company’s spokesperson,
Mr. Ameer Shahul, has claimed that the plant was a “zero-discharge”
plant during its operation and that all studies carried out in the
last four years had found no traces of pollution.
The facts, however, suggest otherwise.
The primary reason that the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Plachimada
remains shut down is because it is unable to obtain the “consent to
operate” permit from the Kerala State Pollution Control Board because
of widespread pollution found by the regulatory agency.
On August 19, 2005, the Kerala State Pollution Control Board ordered
the Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Pvt. Ltd. bottling plant in south
India to “stop production of all kinds of products with immediate
effect.” The Pollution Control Board noted 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.
In addition, tests by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) as
well as Outlook magazine have both confirmed the pollution by Coca-Cola
company in Plachimada.
In October 2003, the Central Pollution Control Board of India also
confirmed high levels of heavy metals in Coca-Cola’s sludge, which
the company was distributing to farmers as “fertilizer”.
Coca-Cola’s contention that the plant was a zero-discharge facility
contradicts the government as well as independent studies.
“We are glad that the Coca-Cola fiasco in India is taking its natural
course of finding the company criminally liable for the damages it
has caused,” said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center, an
international campaigning organization.
“We also strongly feel that the Coca-Cola company should be further
held criminally liable for the complete distortion of facts it is
making today,” Srivastava continued.
For more information, visit www.IndiaResource.org
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