Villagers End Hunger Strike Against Coca-Cola
Get Commitments from Government, Place Deadline for Action
For Immediate Release
July 3, 2006
Contacts: Nandlal Master, Lok Samiti,
India T: +91-542-2632433, +91 94153 00520
Amit Srivastava, India Resource Center, US T: + 1 415 336 7584 E:
San Francisco (July 3, 2006): Community leaders
from Mehdiganj in north India ended their hunger strike on July 1,
2006 against the Coca-Cola company after receiving assurances from
government officials that action will be taken. The community has
also ended the vigil being observed outside Coca-Cola's bottling plant
in Mehdiganj since March 23, 2006.
Close to 1,000 people, from about 40 surrounding villages, attended
activities in Mehdiganj on July 1 to express support for the hunger
strikers and the campaign against Coca-Cola. The villagers also initiated
the construction of a pond in the village to stress the importance
of water conservation and public ownership of water. The pond will
initially be filled with rainwater and water from the river Ganges,
and will be recharged from the groundwater resource.
The Central Pollution Control Board of India (CPCB), the primary regulatory
agency on pollution, has agreed to immediately set up an inquiry regarding
pollution by the Coca-Cola company in Mehdiganj. In communication
with the India Resource Center, Mr. P.M. Ansari, Additional Secretary
of the CPCB, agreed to instruct one of its regional bodies, the Uttar
Pradesh Pollution Control Board, to conduct an assessment of the pollution
by the Coca-Cola company in Mehdiganj and "take appropriate action."
Mr. Ansari also offered to meet directly with community representatives
from Mehdiganj, and said that he will "add his own staff to assess
the situation in Mehdiganj."
A study by the CPCB of Coca-Cola's sludge in November 2003 found extremely
high levels of lead, cadmium and chromium in Coca-Cola's solid and
water waste, high enough that it was considered hazardous industrial
waste. Prior to the CPCB study, the Coca-Cola company was discharging
its waste without taking the necessary actions as required under the
laws governing the disposal of hazardous waste in India.
Community leaders have accused the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Mehdiganj
of creating severe water shortages affecting over twenty villages,
polluting agricultural land and groundwater, illegally occupying land,
evading taxes and treating workers unfairly.
The Central Pollution Control Board has also instructed the Uttar
Pradesh Pollution Control Board to send a report on actions taken
with regard to "Groundwater Contamination and Excessive Extraction
of Groundwater by M/s Coca-Cola Plant at Mehdiganj."
"We expect some concrete actions from the state government to challenge
the Coca-Cola company's pollution within a month. If not, we will
resume our protests," said Nandlal Master of Lok Samiti, who was also
on an indefinite hunger strike.
The Coca-Cola company is facing a major crisis in India, with communities
across India targeting the company for causing water shortages and
pollution. One of Coca-Cola's largest bottling plants in India, in
Plachimada in south India, has been shut down since March 2004 because
of community pressure.
"It is time for the government to do what it is supposed to do - protect
the public interest," said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center,
an international campaigning organization. "We welcome the statements
from the Central Pollution Control Board, and now we expect prompt
For more information on the campaign against Coca-Cola in Mehdiganj,
For information on the campaigns against Coca-Cola in India, visit
Breaking Ground for Pond in Mehdiganj Photo:Lok Samiti
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