India: Residents demand closure of Coca Cola factory
More than 700 residents and environmental activists of the northern Kerala town of Plachimada held protest rallies on Sunday August 4, demanding the closure of a Coca Cola factory. The protestors called on Coca-Cola to close down the local factory, restore the environment, pay compensation, and get out of the region. Around 300 people have been arrested since the protests began last April, and a number of women injured by police during demonstrations. The police have an ongoing presence, the company having successfully gained a court order for police protection after claiming it feared attacks. Veloor Swaminathan, speaking on behalf of the Anti Coca-Cola People's Struggle Committee, said that Coca Cola had dug more than 60 bore wells and depleted the as well as contaminating the ground water. He said the company was sucking out more than 1.5 million tonnes of water daily. "The factory has dried the aquifers within two years." It began operations in 1999 on a 16 hectare plot and makes brands such as Coke, Thumps-Up, Fanta, Sprite, and Kinley Soda. "The company is dumping its foul smelling, dry, sediment slurry waste in the surrounding villages", Veloor Swaminathan said. Coca Cola denies the allegations and claims that the sludge from the plant is rich in manure and is used by local farmers. "The use of toxic waste as fertiliser has only served to spread contamination, besides causing skin problems", Veloor Swaminathan noted. Kerala's Pollution Control Board chief Paul Thatchail dismissed claims relating to pollution but did say that "The main issue is ground water depletion and there may be some truth to that because some of the bore wells of the company itself do not have water." "The fundamental issue is of primary rights over water by the people. Here, natural resources are sold to multinational corporations", activist C R Bijoy said. "We will continue with the agitation and mobilise more support from neighbouring states as well. The protests will continue until the plant stops operating in the region", C R Bijoy said.