Coca-Cola or Clean Water?

Local residents of Kerala, India, are winning a battle against Coca-Cola India for clean ground water and soil, after months of collaboration with a BBC investigative reporter. "The Kerala high court has now ruled that the company must find alternative water sources, " reports the BBC's John Waite, "and only extract amounts of water from its Kerala plant equivalent to those used by any other landowner with 34 acres."

Since the plant opened, spring water in the area is chalky and unhealthy for drinking, even after boiling. Area farmers found that their soil is contaminated with high levels of cadmium and lead, after Coca-Cola donated manufacturing waste as a "fertilizer" to local farms. Coca-Cola's rapid extraction of water is quickly depleting Kerala's deep aquifer. The company uses the water for Coke, other carbonated beverages, and branded bottled water. Coca-Cola India president Sanjeev Gupta said the issue is "about being a positive contributor to the environment." The company is appealing the Kerala court ruling.

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Sojourners Magazine April 2004
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