Coca-Cola Crisis in India
Communities across India are under assault from Coca-Cola practices in the country. A pattern has emerged as a result of Coca-Cola's bottling operations in India.
- Communities across India living around Coca-Cola's bottling plants are experiencing severe water shortages, directly as a result of Coca-Cola's massive extraction of water from the common groundwater resource. The wells have run dry and the hand water pumps do not work any more. Studies, including one by the Central Ground Water Board in India, have confirmed the significant depletion of the water table.
- When the water is extracted from the common groundwater resource by digging deeper, the water smells and tastes strange. Coca-Cola has been indiscriminately discharging its waste water into the fields around its plant and sometimes into rivers, including the Ganges, in the area. The result has been that the groundwater has been polluted as well as the soil. Public health authorities have posted signs around wells and hand pumps advising the community that the water is unfit for human consumption.
- In two communities, Plachimada and Mehdiganj, Coca-Cola was distributing its solid waste to farmers in the area as "fertilizer". Tests conducted by the BBC found cadmium and lead in the waste, effectively making the waste toxic waste. Coca-Cola stopped the practice of distributing its toxic waste only when ordered to do so by the state government.
- Tests conducted by a variety of agencies, including the government of India, confirmed that Coca-Cola products contained high levels of pesticides, and as a result, the Parliament of India has banned the sale of Coca-Cola in its cafeteria. However, Coca-Cola not only continues to sell drinks laced with poisons in India (that could never be sold in the US and EU), it is also introducing new products in the Indian market. And as if selling drinks with DDT and other pesticides to Indians was not enough, one of Coca-Cola's latest bottling facilities to open in India, in Ballia, is located in an area with a severe contamination of arsenic in its groundwater.
Destroying Lives, Livelihoods and Communities
Water shortages, pollution of groundwater and soil, exposure to toxic waste and pesticides is having impacts of massive proportions in India. In a country where over 70% of the population makes a living related to agriculture, stealing the water and poisoning the water and soil is a sure recipe for disaster.
Thousands of farmers in India have been affected by Coca-Cola's practices, and Coca-Cola is guilty of destroying the livelihoods of thousands of people in India. Unfortunately, we do not even know the extent of the damage as a result from exposure to the toxic waste and pesticides as these are long term problems. Most affected are the marginalized communities such as the Adivasis (Indigenous People's) and Dalits (formerly untouchables), as well as the low-income communities, landless agricultural workers and women. Taken in its entirety, that's a lot of people in India.
Coca-Cola is destroying the food security of the people of the land, and by stealing the water and poisoning the water and soil, it is also responsible for ensuring a life of misery for future generations to come. The irony is that most of the impacted community members, who are feeling the brunt of the water shortages and pollution, are unable to afford Coca-Cola. Which may be a good thing given that the product itself is poisonous. But it also raises the larger question of development in India. As is the case with the majority of other commodities in the Indian marketplace, only a fraction of the population are the "beneficiaries" of the current development policies. And unfortunately, the majority are not only left out of the so called "development" process, but they have to pay a high price for it as well.
The arrogance of Coca-Cola in India is not going unanswered. In fact, the growing opposition to Coca-Cola- primarily from Coca-Cola affected communities- has spread so rapidly and gained so much strength that Coca-Cola is now on the defensive.
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