Rally for Climate Justice and Protest Against Coca-Cola - Nov 30, 2009

November 3, 2009: The community of Mehdiganj in Varanasi, India will be rallying for climate justice and demanding the closure of the Coca-Cola bottling plant on November 30, 2009.

The protests will highlight the disproportionate impacts of climate change being experienced by rural, agricultural and low-income communities, and challenge the Coca-Cola company's continued operations in the area that are worsening the climate impacts.

Groundwater levels have fallen drastically in and around Mehdiganj since Coca-Cola began operations in the area in 1999 - impeding access to water for the rural and agricultural communities.

Coke Sucks
June 2009 was the driest June in India in the last 80 years, and India is currently experiencing its worst drought in the last 40 years. Mehdiganj and surrounding areas have been declared drought areas, and thousands of farmers in the area have lost their crops and livelihoods as the rains failed to arrive in normal fashion and the groundwater levels dipped.

Mehdiganj has also experienced less than normal rainfall in nine of the last eleven years. The climate has changed, and according to state government officials, the water scarcity in and around Mehdiganj is the worst in the area.

The Coca-Cola company, however, has continued to extract water from the groundwater resource - the same source of water for the community as well as a large number of farmers - even in times of drought and bleak water conditions for the community.

The vast majority of Coca-Cola's production, and extraction of water, happens in the summer months - exactly when the water shortages to the community are most severe.

"As rural and farming communities, we have hardly contributed to the problem of climate change yet we are experiencing some of the worst impacts which are threatening our lives and livelihoods," said Nandlal Master of Lok Samiti, the organizers of the protest.

"Coca-Cola is making the water shortages even worse by continuing to take water in times of drought. The company must shut down its plant in Mehdiganj," he continued.

Coca-Cola, which extracted 38 million liters of water in 2008 in Mehdiganj, has responded to the campaign by announcing that it has become "water neutral" in Mehdiganj - a preposterous suggestion that it has no impact on water resources.

"The fact is that Coca-Cola continues to operate in drought affected areas in India where the communities are struggling to meet their basic water needs. Coca-Cola has no respect whatsoever for the communities it operates in. As access to water becomes more difficult because of climate change, the company's use of water needs to be challenged," said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center, an international campaigning organization.

"What is more important? Meeting the water needs of a community and farming or mass producing Coca-Cola from a depleting groundwater resource? The answer to us is clear, and Coca-Cola has to go," said Nandlal Master.

It is generally accepted that climate change will significantly strain access to potable water around the world, and companies like Coca-Cola which rely heavily on water will face opposition as communities experience climate-induced water shortages. The campaign in Mehdiganj is a leading community led campaign that holds companies accountable for exacerbating the already existing impacts of climate change.

The Coca-Cola company also faces significant opposition in Kala Dera, another drought affected community where groundwater levels have plummeted as a result of Coca-cola's operations. A study financed by Coca-Cola recommended its closure but the company has refused to do so.

The march for Climate Justice and protest against Coca-Cola on November 30, 2009 will be preceded by a conference, "Climate Justice, Water Rights and Corporate Accountability" on November 29, 2009.

Please also visit our position paper on the rally for Climate Justice and Protest Against Coca-Cola.

For more information, visit www.IndiaResource.org

Nandlal Master, Lok Samiti, India E: napm_up@yahoo.com T: +91 94153 00520
Amit Srivastava, India Resource Center, India/US E: info@IndiaResource.org T: +1 415 336 7584 (US) +91 98103 46161 (India)

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