The Hazards Centre and People’s Science Institute says that nine samples of groundwater collected within one kilometer of the plant in Plachimada do not meet national standards on safe drinking water.

The scientists found excess levels of heavy metals such as chromium, cadmium and lead in the samples, collected in November 2005. According to the report, the pollutants were not present in the water before the plant was built.

Coca-Cola has been heavily criticised by campaign groups for its operations in India, and this is the latest in a series of studies claiming that it may have polluted the groundwater.

The plant has already been shut down by the Kerala State Pollution Control Board, although Coca-Cola has mounted a legal challenge to this decision.

But local NGOs say this does not go far enough. R. Ajayan of the Plachimada Solidarity Committee, said: “The state must permanently shut down the Coca-Cola plant in Plachimada. The company has destroyed the natural resources in the area through negligence, and we will continue to demand that Coca-Cola be held responsible for the damages, including criminal and financial liability.”

Meanwhile, the India Resource Centre, a campaign group working with the local community to oppose the plant, has called for a boycott.

Amit Srivastava said: “We ask people to think before they drink, and given the facts, we are confident that people will refuse to drink Coca-Cola until it cleans up its act.”

Coca-Cola did not reply to requests for comments before this issue went to press.

Gretchen Hendriks

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