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April 22, 2009
1:00 PM

CONTACT: India Resource Center

R. Ajayan, Plachimada Solidarity Committee, India +91 98471 42513
Nandlal Master, Lok Samiti, India +91 94153 00520
Amit Srivastava, India Resource Center, US +1 415 336 7584
Mahesh Yogi, Kala Dera Jan Sangharsh Samiti, India +91 98295 99140

Coca-Cola Not Disclosing Financial Liabilities in India

ATLANTA - April 22 - The Coca-Cola company is making a big mistake by not acknowledging the potentially large financial liabilities it continues to incur in India as a result of its water management practices, Coca-Cola company shareholders were told today.

Two Coca-Cola bottling plants have already been shut down in India and two other plants face increasing opposition for creating water shortages and pollution.

An assessment financed by Coca-Cola and released in January 2008 has found fault with Coca-Cola's water management and pollution practices around some plants in India.

The assessment has recommended that Coca-Cola shut down or relocate one of its bottling plants, in Kala Dera, because the plant's operations "would continue to be one of the contributors to a worsening water situation and a source of stress to the communities around," according to the study.

Coca-Cola ignored the recommendations of the study.

"Coca-Cola should never have located its bottling plant in Kala Dera where people were already experiencing water shortages before Coca-Cola showed up.  The result has been even more suffering for the people.  Farmers are losing their crops and women have to walk longer to access water.  Coca-Cola should respect the findings of its own study and shut down the plant in Kala Dera," said Mahesh Yogi of Kala Dera Sangharsh Samiti, a local community group challenging Coca-Cola.

The assessment also warned Coca-Cola on deteriorating water conditions in Mehdiganj, where the community has been campaigning for the plant's closure. 

In response to the campaign, Coca-Cola has announced that it has become water neutral in Mehdiganj by the end of 2008 - suggesting that they somehow return nearly 100 million liters of water into the groundwater annually.  Coca-Cola also reiterated its goal to become water neutral in India in the next eight months at the shareholders meeting, a claim that has been called a greenwash attempt by its critics.

"Coca-Cola does not and cannot return all the water it uses back into the local aquifer.  Some of their rainwater harvesting structures are too far away to have a positive impact on the local aquifer in Mehdiganj.  Add to that the lack of normal rainfall, and the fact that Coca-Cola continues to extract water from a rapidly declining water table, and it becomes clear that Coca-Cola's operations are in no way neutral but in fact have significant impacts on water," said Nandlal Master of Lok Samiti, the local group leading the campaign against Coca-Cola.

One of Coca-Cola's largest bottling plants in India, in Plachimada, has been shut down since March 2004 because of community opposition.

"Coca-Cola is refusing to accept the facts in Plachimada.  Its plant has been shut down, it cannot reopen the plant because the government won't allow it to and the state government of Kerala has moved to seek compensation from Coca-Cola for the damages it has caused.  Coca-Cola must accept the facts and move on," said R. Ajayan of the Plachimada Solidarity Committee, a key statewide campaigning group.

"Coca-Cola continues to operate with impunity in Kala Dera and Mehdiganj even though its own study has confirmed that continued operations bring extreme hardship to the community.  It is only a matter of time before the plants will be shut down and the company will have to pay for the damages in has caused in India.  The longer they wait to genuinely address the crisis in India, the larger their liability," said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center, an international campaigning organization, who spoke at the shareholders meeting.

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