'Pack your bags and leave' community tells Coca Cola

A community in the southern Indian state of Kerala has received government support to take soft drink giant Coca-Cola to India's Supreme Court on the grounds of pollution and over-exploitation of local resources resulting in water shortages.

In a statement issued by the India Resource Center - an organisation which supports movements against corporate globalization in India - it says that the state of Kerala will support Plachimada's fight against Coca-Cola, "providing financial support as well as 'exploring' the possibility of filing criminal charges against the company for pollution and 'over-exploiting' the area with regards to groundwater resources."

"It is time for the Coca-Cola Company to finally accept the mandate of the community and now the state. They should pack up their bags and leave from Plachimada," said R Ajayan of the Plachimada Solidarity Committee.

Coca-Cola's bottling plant in Plachimada has been shut down since March 2004 because of the strong community opposition as a result of severe water shortages in the area and alleged pollution of the groundwater and soil.

In September 2005, the state government had stated that "poor villages are deprived of drinking water due to overuse of ground water by Coca-Cola plant at Plachimada to produce bottled drinks for sale to people who have purchasing capacity in different cities of the country."

The Kerala State Pollution Control Board has also identified "extremely high levels of heavy metals in and around Coca-Cola's bottling plant" the statement says. However, no legal action has yet been taken.

Already, many of Coca-Cola's bottling plants in India have been the target of community campaigns, accusing the company of 'exacerbating water shortages through water depletion and pollution,' says the India Resource Center.

Earlier this summer, Coca-Cola teamed up with a conservation group to address the impact the company's bottling plants has on local water resources, particularly in the developing world.

At the time the company's chairman and chief executive, E Neville Isdell said: "Our goal is to replace every drop of water we use in our beverages and their production.

"For us that means reducing the amount of water used to produce our beverages, recycling water used for manufacturing processes so it can be returned safely to the environment, and replenishing water in communities and nature through locally relevant projects."

Dana Gornitzki



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