TERI recommends closure of Cola plant in Raj village

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New Delhi Jan 15 (UNI) The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) has in a report called for the closure of one of Coco Cola's bottling plants in Kala Dera village of Rajasthan for causing widespread water shortages in surrouding areas.

The report has been widely hailed by NGOs working in the area.

TERI has recommended that either the Coca-Cola bottling find alternative sources of water or relocate or shut down the plant altogether.

The 500 page report, - "Independent, Third Party Assessment of Coca-Cola Facilities in India" assessed only six of Coca-Cola's 50 bottling plants in India.

The report points out the heavy pollution present in the immediate vicinity of the Coca-Cola bottling plants and calls for additional studies. It also shows that the Coca-Cola company has failed to meet its own standards regarding waste management, and that the company has hampered TERI assessment because it has refused to share the Environmental Impact Assessments for any one of the six plants.

"We are absolutely thrilled that finally the source of so many of our problems, the Coca-Cola bottling plant, will be shut down," said Rameshwar Kudi of the Kala Dera Sangharsh Samiti, the local group that has led the campaign for the plant's closure.

The report takes the company to task for setting up its bottling plants in already water stressed areas, without much thought given to the impacts on communities. It also validates the concerns of water scarcity and pollution that have been raised by communities in Kala Dera, Mehdiganj as well as others.

"The report confirms what we have been saying all along. The groundwater situation in Mehdiganj is deteriorating, and we are not going to wait till we also become like Kala Dera. The company must stop its operations immediately," said Nandlal Master of Lok Samiti which is leading the campaign to shut down the Coca-Cola plant in Mehdiganj.

The report notes that ''the basic focus of the Coca-Cola Company water resource management practices is on business continuity, and community water issues do not appear to form an integral part of the water resource management practices of the Company.'' It says that in general, the community perceptions were found in conformity to the results obtained from the detailed technical assessment of groundwater resources.

While welcoming the report, the India Resource Centre, however, said it remained unclear as to why the six plants were chosen.

Community activists would have expected to see the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Plachimada in Kerala, which has been shut down since March 2004, also included because the Coca-Cola company is still trying to re-open the plant, said Amit Srivastava of the Center, an international campaigning group.

Similarly, a franchisee operated Coca-Cola bottling plant in Ballia in Uttar Pradesh should have been included in the assessment because community members found industrial waste scattered all across the plant premises less than a year ago, he said.

UNI NAZ DS BST1514

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