Communities Rally to Close Coca-Cola Bottling Plant

For years there have been protests in India over Coke's exploitation of groundwater -- including contamination of drinking water and the draining of wells. In Kala Dera, the people have had enough.

Below is a dispatch from that explains the situation:


Residents living around Coca-Cola's bottling plant in Kala Dera, near Jaipur in Rajasthan, India marched and rallied yesterday demanding the closure of the bottling plant.

Nearly 60 villages surrounding Coca-Cola's bottling plant in Kala Dera have complained of severe water shortages since the bottling plant began operations in the area.

The Central Ground Water Board of India declared the groundwater resources in Kala Dera area as "overexploited" in 1998, two years prior to Coca-Cola's decision to locate its bottling plant and begin operations.

"Why did Coca-Cola begin its operations in Kala Dera when the government had already confirmed that the communities are experiencing water shortages?" asked Rameshwar Kudi, a community leader with the Kala Dera Jan Sangharsh Samiti who has been leading the community campaign against Coca-Cola.

Government records have also confirmed that the groundwater levels in Kala Dera have fallen nearly 10 meters in just the first four years of Coca-Cola's operations.

A sustained international campaign against Coca-Cola forced the company to agree to an independent assessment of its bottling operations in India. The assessment, conducted by Coca-Cola's ally in India, The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI), looked at six bottling plants in 2007, including Kala Dera and confirmed the concerns of the community.

In a damning indictment of Coca-Cola's operations in Kala Dera and India, the TERI assessment concluded that the Coca-Cola company operated on a principle dedicated just to "business continuity," and community water issues had been completely neglected.

The report made four recommendations for the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Kala Dera -- making it clear that Coca-Cola could not continue to use the groundwater in Kala Dera:

  • Transport water from the nearest aquifer that may not be stressed

  • Store water from low-stress seasons

  • Relocate the plant to a water-surplus area

  • Shut down the facility

  • The Coca-Cola company has ignored the recommendations of the assessment -- which it paid for and also helped design -- so far.

    "We want Coca-Cola to implement the recommendations made by the TERI assessment immediately," said Mahesh Yogi, convener of the Kala Dera Jan Sangharsh Samiti which organized Monday's march and rally. "Coca-Cola is destroying the lives and livelihoods of thousands of farmers and their families in the area, and we will increase the pressure on Coca-Cola to shut down the plant."

    "There is a serious disconnect between Coca-Cola's rhetoric at the Olympics, where it spent hundreds of millions of dollars to sell itself as a hydration company, and on the ground in India, where communities are left dehydrated as a result of the company's thirst for water," said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center, an international campaigning organization that works directly with communities in India to challenge Coca-Cola's abuses.

    "We will continue to campaign internationally until Coca-Cola shuts down its plant in Kala Dera and cleans up its act in India."

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