Compensation Claims Against Coca-Cola to Move Forward

For Immediate Release

India Resource Center

R. Ajayan, Plachimada Solidarity Committee, India +91 98471 42513
Amit Srivastava, India Resource Center, US +1 415 336 7584

Compensation Claims Against Coca-Cola to Move Forward

State Government Agrees to Study Details of Compensation Against Coca-Cola

SAN FRANCISCO - In a major development in the campaign against Coca-Cola in India, the Kerala Minister of Water Resources has agreed to set up a high- ranking committee to look into the compensation claims being made by the community who have been affected by Coca-Cola's operations in Plachimada, in the state of Kerala in India.

In a meeting held yesterday, the Kerala State Groundwater Authority agreed that the campaign demands for compensation from the Coca-Cola company hold merit and should move forward. The Kerala State Groundwater Authority recommended that the state government of Kerala establish a high-ranking committee that will look into the practical details of establishing compensation for community members in Plachimada affected negatively by Coca-Cola's practices.

The Authority made its decision based on a report it had commissioned to look into the issue of compensation - after persistent efforts by the Plachimada Solidarity Committee and the Plachimada Adivasi Samrakshana Sanghom, two of the primary campaign groups.

The Kerala State Groundwater Authority was set up by the government of Kerala with the mandate to implement the Kerala Ground Water (Control and Regulation) Act 2002 - and primarily focus on conservation and regulation of ground water and control of its use.

The Coca-Cola bottling plant in Plachimada has remained shut down since March 2004 as a result of a formidable community campaign accusing the bottling plant of creating severe water shortages and pollution of groundwater and soil. The plant remains shut because it is unable to obtain permission from the Kerala State Pollution Control Board.

Government and independent studies have confirmed the pollution by the Coca-Cola company in the area, and the village council (panchayat) has repeatedly refused to renew Coca-Cola's license, citing growing water shortages and pollution by the company.

"This is a major move forward in the campaign to hold Coca-Cola accountable," said R. Ajayan, convener of the Plachimada Solidarity Committee that has been pushing the compensation demands forward with state officials. "We must look at the past, present and future damages caused by Coca-Cola's reckless operations in Plachimada."

In addition to calling for the permanent closure of the Coca-Cola bottling plant and compensation, the campaign is also demanding that the Coca-Cola company be held criminally liable for its actions in Plachimada.

The Coca-Cola company is also the target of community campaigns in other parts in India accusing the company of exacerbating water shortages and pollution. A Coca-Cola funded study released earlier this year recommended the closure of another bottling plant - in Kala Dera in the state of Rajasthan.

Coca-Cola has chosen to ignore the recommendation, choosing to focus instead on publicizing its Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives.

"We welcome the positive movement on compensation in Kerala. This should serve as a powerful reminder to the Coca-Cola company and its shareholders that glamorous ads and wishful thinking are not enough to hide the crimes they have committed. At the end of the day, they must pay," said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center which coordinates the International Campaign Against Coca-Cola for its crimes in India.

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