Major Protest Against Coca-Cola in India
Over Thousand Villagers Demand Accountability for Water Scarcity
For Immediate Release
October 4, 2006
Nandlal Master, Lok Samiti (India) +91 98716 02612
Sandeep Pandey, National Alliance of People's Movements (India) +91
Amit Srivastava, India Resource Center (US) +1 415 336 7584 E: info@IndiaResource.org
New Delhi (October 4, 2006): Over a thousand villagers protested at
Coca-Cola's north India headquarters in Gurgaon today, demanding that
the company take immediate actions to clean up its act in India or
The protest at Coca-Cola's headquarters comes at the end of the "Water
Rights Tour", where residents from the village of Mehdiganj in the
north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh traveled across the state to raise
awareness on the issue of groundwater depletion and pollution by the
Coca-Cola company and Pepsico.
Close to 1,500 villagers also protested at the Parliament of India
in Delhi on Tuesday, demanding that the government take action against
the Coca-Cola company and Pepsico.
The village of Mehdiganj and surrounding villages have been experiencing
severe water shortages since Coca-Cola started bottling operations
in the village, and the remaining groundwater and the soil have been
polluted as a result of the bottling plant's operations.
A recent study of water conditions in eight villages within a 3 kilometer
radius of the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Mehdiganj found that the
number of wells that had dried up increased seven-fold since Coca-Cola
commenced operations in the area, and on an average, the water levels
in the wells in the area had dropped 18 feet.
The Central Pollution Control Board of India, the primary environmental
regulatory agency, has also confirmed high levels of lead, cadmium
and chromium in the sludge being produced by the Coca-Cola plant.
Most recently, the Coca-Cola company has suffered dramatic loss in
sales because of reports that confirm high levels of pesticides in
Coca-Cola products in India.
"With the pesticides in Coca-Cola products, at least consumers have
a choice - they can choose not to drink Coca-Cola. The villagers of
Mehdiganj and surrounding villages do not have such a choice. Their
water tables are dropping dramatically and their land and water is
being polluted, and for them, it is a matter of survival," said Sandeep
Pandey of the National Alliance of People's Movements, one of the
organizers of the protest.
"Access to water is a fundamental human right and the Coca-Cola company
is denying this right to thousands of people across India," said Nandlal
Master of Lok Samiti, a community organization from Mehdiganj at the
forefront of the campaign against Coca-Cola. "We will continue to
campaign until people across India can live free of the abuses being
perpetrated by these companies."
The protesters at Coca-Cola's north India headquarters were met by
Mr. Kalyan Ranjan, Senior Manager of Public Affairs & Communication
at Coca-Cola India. Visibly nervous, Mr. Ranjan denied any knowledge
of the various reports implicating the Coca-Cola company for pollution
and water depletion. Mr. Ranjan is also known for making outlandish
statements. In February 2006, he announced that there was no campaign
against Coca-Cola in Mehdiganj.
Protest Against Coca-Cola Credit: Sarvesh/India Resource Center
"We find it preposterous that even three years after the government
of India confirmed the dangerously high levels of cadmium, lead and
chromium in its waste, the company claims it knows of no such study.
The Coca-Cola company is trying to act above the law in India, and
this is not acceptable," said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource
Center, an international campaigning organization.
Communities in India campaigning against Coca-Cola for creating water
shortages and pollution enjoy tremendous support internationally,
with close to twenty colleges and universities in the United States
and the United Kingdom restricting the sale of Coca-Cola products
until the company genuinely addresses the concerns in India.
The campaign against Coca-Cola in the United States has just completed
a successful speaking tour of six colleges and universities last week,
including Fordham University, Wellesley College, Harvard University,
Stony Brook University, Brandeis University and Clark University.
All these campuses are campaigning to ban Coca-Cola products. A public
debate is scheduled with the Coca-Cola company at the University of
Minnesota on October 11. The debate is being organized by the student
government at the University of Minnesota who have resolved to investigate
the issues further. The University of Minnesota has one of the largest
campus contracts with the Coca-Cola company in the world, and students
are campaigning to cut the contract because of Coca-Cola's abuses
in India and around the world.
For more information, visit www.IndiaResource.org
Medha Patkar at Protest Against Coca-Cola Credit: Sarvesh/India Resource Center
FAIR USE NOTICE. This document contains copyrighted material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. India Resource Center is making this article available in our efforts to advance the understanding of corporate accountability, human rights, labor rights, social and environmental justice issues. We believe that this constitutes a 'fair use' of the copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the U.S. Copyright Law. If you wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use,' you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.