Facing Imminent Defeat, Coca-Cola Tries to Set Terms in India
For Immediate Release
January 5, 2006
“No Longer Up to Coca-Cola to Dictate What Happens Next”
San Francisco: In a bold move, the Coca-Cola company
in India has demanded that either they be allowed to re-open the closed
factory in Plachimada immediately or they be allowed to shift the
factory to a nearby industrial estate.
The campaign to hold Coca-Cola accountable is accusing the Coca-Cola
company of trying to wriggle out of the major liabilities it has incurred
The Coca-Cola bottling plant in Plachimada, in the southern state
of Kerala, has remained shut down since March 2004 because the community
will not allow it to operate- citing the plant for causing severe
water shortages and pollution.
In a closed door meeting with Kerala state government officials on
January 3, 2006, Coca-Cola company officials insisted that they had
met all the conditions in order to obtain the necessary license to
operate and that they were the target of a “misguided campaign.”
Coca-Cola’s operations in Plachimada and in India have been indicted
at all levels, ranging from regular community protests, state government
actions and central government and independent studies.
The local village council (Perumatty panchayat) in Plachimada
has repeatedly refused a license to Coca-Cola because the company
has not met the conditions to obtain a license, including obtaining
no-objection certificates from the Pollution Control Board.
The Perumatty panchayat has offered Coca-Cola a 90-day, conditional
license today, but the company has to satisfactorily answer seventeen
questions posed by the village council, and also produce seven certificates.
The company has fifteen days to respond.
The Kerala State Pollution Control Board issued a stop order notice
to the company in August 2005 because of high levels of lead and cadmium
around its bottling plant.
Adding to Coca-Cola’s woes, the state government of Kerala has also
challenged the company’s right to extract water by appealing to the
Supreme Court of India in September 2005, where the case will be heard
The state has argued 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.”
Coca-Cola company officials also demanded “appropriate” compensation
if they had to move the facility in the form of “continued and increased
sales tax incentives.”
Both the Plachimada Struggle Committee, which has spearheaded the
local campaign as well as the Plachimada Solidarity Committee, a statewide
network of support organizations, were not invited to the meeting
and had harsh words for the Coca-Cola company.
“We all must recognize that the Coca-Cola company is no longer in
the drivers seat, and that it is no longer up to Coca-Cola to dictate
what happens next. That is left to the community and the people of
Kerala,” said R. Ajayan of the Plachimada Solidarity Committee.
“There can be no resolution to the crisis if the community is excluded,
and as such, this is an illegitimate process,” said C. R. Bijoy of
the People’s Union for Civil Liberties.
There is also strong opposition to the idea of moving Coca-Cola’s
bottling plant to an industrial estate in Puduserry, only 40 kms away
from Plachimada. The entire area has been suffering from acute water
shortages, and relocation of such a water intensive company will only
exacerbate water conditions for the community. In fact, the local
village council in Puduserry had revoked the license for a Pepsico
bottling plant in 2003 because of severe water shortages. Additionally,
local community leaders point out that Coca-Cola’s pollution of the
groundwater and soil in Plachimada, which has been verified by the
state government and independent studies, will continue in other areas.
“There is no easy way out for Coca-Cola because it has caused immense
damage to both the people and the environment, and impacts will be
felt for a long time. The lesson learnt from Plachimada is that we
cannot allow such negligent practices anywhere,” said Amit Srivastava
of the India Resource Center, an international campaigning organization.
“We welcome the growing realization by the Coca-Cola company that
it cannot re-open its plant in Plachimada anymore because the community
does not welcome it, and now we are committed to pressing other demands
that the Coca-Cola company must meet,” said R. Ajayan.
In addition to demanding the permanent shut down of the bottling plant,
the community led struggle in Plachimada has also demanded:
The campaign to hold Coca-Cola accountable for its crimes in India
enjoy tremendous international support, with most recently the University
of Michigan deciding to cease business with the company effective
January 1, 2006.
For more information, visit www.IndiaResource.org
- Compensation for affected community members who have lost their
livelihoods as a result of the water shortages and pollution
- Remediation of the area until the groundwater achieves the quality
and quantity prior to the establishment of the factory
- Admit long term liability for the health impacts to the community
as a result of the pollution
- Initiation of criminal proceedings against the Coca-Cola company
for destruction of lives, livelihoods and environment
- Introduction of appropriate government rules and regulations
that ensure that such abuses do not happen again
- Dropping of all criminal charges filed against activists engaged
in the campaign
- Setting up of funds to ensure retraining and relocation of workers
currently working in the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Plachimada,
including contract workers
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