INDIA: Cola Companies Told to Quit

Reports said thousands of protesters had gathered
near manufacturing plants of the two firms and demanded that they stop

Activists want the firms to leave India because they
say their plants deplete ground water - claims the soft drinks giants
both strenuously deny.

Spokesmen for the two firms dismissed the protests as low-key.

Ground water 'destroyed'

The demonstrations across India were organised by the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology (RFSTE)

Its representatives said that at least 100,000 people participated in
the campaign and formed human chains to protest against the drinks

Organisers said "Quit India" notices had been handed in at 45 plants.

"The factories must close down as they are not only guilty of uncertain
standards in their drinks, but they are also depleting groundwater,"
one protester, Vinay Sagar, told the AFP news agency.

The protests were held to mark 1,000 days of opposition to a Coca-Cola manufacturing plant in the southern state of Kerala.

Coca-Cola suspended operations at the plant on the orders of the state
government after villagers complained of acute water shortages in the

They claimed the company was releasing effluent into
the underground water and using too much of it, leaving little for
local people.

The matter is in the hands of the Kerala High Court.

'Politically motivated'

Coca-Cola and Pepsi account for more than 90% of the carbonated drinks
market in India and together sell more than 500 million bottles every

Spokesmen for the two firms said only a handful of people had gathered at some of their plants.

Coca-Cola issued a statement saying that the company believed the
protests were "politically, rather than environmentally motivated".

The statement rejected criticism of Coca Cola's water
usage in India, saying the company had won acclaim for its approach to
water management.

The company statement said that the protests took place
in only five to six areas, and that dozens of people had participated,
rather than hundreds of thousands.

Coca-Cola insists all its plants are safe and any toxins are within legal limits.

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