Coca Cola targeted by grass roots activists

Coca Cola has once again found itself in the firing line as Indian activists protest against pollution and conflicting demands on water resources.

This is not the first time the multinational drinks company has found itself in an unwelcome spotlight in India, where several bottling plants have fallen out with their neighbours in recent years over environmental concerns (see related story).

The latest plant to find itself targeted by grass roots activism is on the outskirts of Mehdiganj, a settlement outside the holy city of Varanasi in northern India.

The community is accusing the company of creating water shortages and polluting the land near the factory and are demanding the plant shut down before the dry summer months when it is expected to reach peak production.

Some 500 protesters have set up a tent camp outside the gates of the plant and say they will remain there until the company agrees to pull out.

Previous demonstrations at the plant have included a silent protest where 300 campaigners wearing black gags marched on the factory and others where they waved placards bearing slogans such as 'drink coconut not coca cola'.

The backlash Coca Cola has suffered in India has led the company to dedicate part of its website to countering the arguments against its activity in the sub continent and highlighting its environmental work.

Coca Cola also maintains it plays a valuable role in providing jobs and economic prosperity to the area.

But spurred on by the success of activists in Southern India who, after years of campaigning, persuaded the authorities to revoke Coca Cola's licence to operate, grass root actions such as those in Mehdiganj continue.

by Sam Bond



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