Community Rallies to Shut Down Coca-Cola in India

Demand Closure of Bottling Plant Before Summer to Ease Water Scarcity

For Immediate Release
February 3, 2006

Nandlal Master, Lok Samiti (Hindi only) + 91 94153 00520 (India)
Arundhati Dhuru, National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM) +91 94150 22772 (India)
Amit Srivastava, India Resource Center +1 415 336 7584 (US) E: info@IndiaResource.org

San Francisco (February 3, 2006): Over 500 hundred community members and their supporter marched to the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Mehdiganj, near the holy city of Varanasi, in northern India today.

The protesters are demanding that the Coca-Cola bottling plant be shut down immediately because it is causing severe water shortages - by extracting too much water and polluting the groundwater in the area.

Medha Patkar at Mehdiganj Rally
Medha Patkar at Mehdiganj Rally Photo: Lok Samiti
"People are already experiencing water scarcity, and we are concerned that Coca-Cola's continued use of large amounts of water, particularly in the coming summer months, will make the water crisis in the area even worse," said Nandlal Master of Lok Samiti, the main organizing group of the rally. "We are demanding that the state government immediately shut down the plant."

The local village council (panchayat) in Mehdiganj has already cancelled the license for the Coca-Cola bottling plant but state authorities have yet to take action.

The march was stopped by police about 300 meters from the bottling plant, and Medha Patkar, coordinator of the National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM), was injured by the police in their efforts to stop the march. The injury was not serious.

"Coca-Cola's operations in India seriously threaten people's access to water which is a life support resource," said Medha Patkar. "We cannot allow corporate control of our life support resources, and we need to assert people's sovereignty over water. If left unchallenged, next will be the sale and purchase of rivers."

The protester's demands include the dropping of all criminal charges against community members, an inquiry into the illegal manner in which the Coca-Cola plant has occupied land belonging to the community as well as compensation for farmers who have been adversely affected by Coca-Cola's practices.

Coca-Cola's practices are causing dramatic impacts on the community. Farmers, for whom the quantity and quality of water is key to successful farming, have been particularly hit hard, losing significant crop yields.

The campaign to shut down Coca-Cola's plant enjoys widespread support in the area and the support for the campaign is growing, including an endorsement from Mr. V.P. Singh, former Prime Minister of India.

Nandlal Master of Lok Samiti announced the community's plans to escalate the campaign by starting an indefinite vigil in front of the Coca-Cola bottling plant from March 23to force the plant to shut down.

Coca-Cola has become the target of various communities across India who are experiencing severe problems with the quantity and quality of water as a result of the company's operations.

One of Coca-Cola's largest plants in India, in Plachimada in south India, has remained shut down since Match 2004 because of local community pressure.

The company is also the target of an international campaign to meet the demands of the communities in India. Most recently, on December 31, 2005, the University of Michigan suspended Coca-Cola's contracts with the university because the company would not agree to an independent assessment of its operations.

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