Major Protest Demands Coca-Cola Shut Down Plant
Coca-Cola Operating Plant Without Environmental Authorization
Government Data Confirms Drops in Water Tables
For Immediate Release
March 31, 2008
Nandlal Master, Lok Samiti +91 94153 00520 (India)
Amit Srivastava, India Resource Center +91 98103 46161 (India) +1
415 336 7584 (US)
Varanasi (March 31, 2008): Over 1500 villagers marched
to the Coca-Cola company's bottling plant in Mehdiganj in Varanasi
in India yesterday demanding that the bottling plant shut down immediately.
Breaking a police barrier that attempted to keep the protesters 300
meters from the bottling plant, the villagers held a rally at the
plant's gate accusing the company of creating severe water shortages
in the area and polluting the water and land.
The march and rally against Coca-Cola in Mehdiganj in the latest in
a series of protests against the company in India where communities
have accused Coca-Cola bottling plants for exacerbating the water
crises through heavy extraction of water from the groundwater resource
and polluting the groundwater and soil.
The march and rally against Coca-Cola was preceded by a two-day conference
in Mehdiganj on Right to Water. At the conference, Mr. Ghanshyam,
a representative of the Uttar Pradesh State Pollution Control Board
admitted that the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Mehdiganj did not have
a current hazardous waste authorization from the Pollution Control
Board required to operate. The authorization had expired on July 27,
2007 and the Pollution Control Board has sent a legal notice to Coca-Cola
in this regard.
"Coca-Cola has been operating illegally for the last 8 months and
the Pollution Control Board and the state government must take immediate
steps to shut down the bottling plant," said Nandlal Master of Lok
Samiti, the primary organizer of the conference and protest.
March to Coca-Cola Plant in Mehdiganj Photo: India Resource Center
Coca-Cola's bottling plants in India generate hazardous waste and
they have to obtain authorizations from the Pollution Control Board
to ensure that the hazardous waste is handled as required by the Hazardous
Waste (Management & Handling) Rules 1989.
The communities' claims of declining water tables (which Coca-Cola
refutes) have also been confirmed by the latest data from the Ground
Water Board, a government of India agency.
Data collected by the Ground Water Board confirm that ground water
levels have dropped up to 8 meters (26 feet) in the first seven years
of Coca-Cola's operations, from 1999 to 2006.
The result has been the drying up of wells and hand water pumps in
the vicinity of Coca-Cola's bottling plants, and continues to pose
a significant crisis for farmers who also rely on the ground water
resource to meet their needs. Over 80% of the community in Mehdiganj
engage in agriculture, and groundwater remains the primary source
of water for the community to meet all its water needs.
"The Coca-Cola company is a gross violator of human rights in India
by continuing to operate its plants in areas where the community is
unable to meet its basic water needs. Do we need to satisfy Coca-Cola's
thirst for water when even the farmers don't have enough water to
make a living?" said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center,
an international campaigning organization. "All of Coca-Cola's claims
of being a socially responsible corporation ring hollow when weighed
against its track record in India."
The Coca-Cola company in India is under fire from various communities
who have accused the company of creating severe water shortages and
pollution. The Coca-Cola company was forced to agree to an assessment
of its plants in India as a result of a sustained campaign internationally.
The assessment of six plants (out of fifty Coca-Cola plants) released
in January 2008 was conducted by the Energy and Resources Institute
(TERI) and was a scathing indictment of Coca-Cola's operations in
Rally at Coca-Cola Bottling Plant Photo: India Resource Center
The assessment, which was paid for by the Coca-Cola company, has recommended
the closure of another bottling plant in India-in Kala Dera, Rajasthan-because
of the acute water situation. The assessment also warned Coca-Cola
on Mehdiganj, noting that the water tables have been depleting and
the aquifer is moving towards a semi-critical situation.
"Coca-Cola, Pepsico and other companies are plundering our natural
resources. Water sustains life, and without water, life in not sustainable.
The time has come to put an end to the misguided expropriation of
our natural resources and assert the right to water to the communities
to whom it belongs," said Medha Patkar of the National Alliance of
People's Movements, who led the march and rally.
For more information, visit www.IndiaResource.org
Images from the protest are available on request.
Protest at Coca-Cola Plant in Mehdiganj Photo: India Resource Center
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