What’s up with coke? Part two

Environmental Destruction in India

Water BottleCoca Cola has bottling plants the world over, allowing the company to take advantage of very low labour and production costs in certain countries, as well as decreasing the bill for the shipping of its products to its customers. One might think this makes the company more environmentally friendly, through reducing emissions caused by the transportation of goods around the world. However there are some who would tell you differently, very differently. These are the people who live on the doorsteps of the Coca Cola bottling plants all over India.

It is an often bemoaned fact that it is in fact cheaper to buy a bottle of sugar filled Coca Cola in New Zealand than it is to buy a bottle of water. Luckily, however, we have the option of turning on the tap and filling our glasses with potable water for very little money. In many Asian and African countries the severe shortage of available, clean, safe drinking water is a huge problem for inhabitants. India is one such country. The Indian village of Plachimada obtain all their drinking water from wells which tap into groundwater around the village. The locals began to notice that they were not the only ones tapping into the groundwater in the area. Coca Cola were also using the ground water, in much vaster quantities than the inhabitants of the area, in the production of their soft drinks.

Fetching WaterVillagers all over India have found themselves in a similar situation, with Coca Cola bottling plants helping themselves to precious life-giving ground water and causing their wells to drop by, in some cases, up to fifty feet (about 15 metres). Lax environmental regulations in the country did nothing to prevent this from occurring. Villagers have been forced to travel large distances in search of adequate drinking water, while the water once readily available to them is now only available in the form of a caffeinated, sugary carbonated drink, bought in planet-polluting plastic bottles.

To add salt to the wound, it has been found that aside from removing drinkable water from these communities, Coca Cola has also been pumping waste water indiscriminately back into the communities, litres and litres of contaminated water flow into the fields and rivers of India, polluting not only the soils, but the small amount of groundwater that remains for the villagers. Areas where this water has been discharged have been signposted by the authorities as water unfit for human consumption, while farmers were sold the solid waste of the Coca Cola factories to use as fertiliser. Tests of the waste found two dangerous substances (cadmium and lead) in the “fertiliser” which mean that in effect it is toxic waste.

The communities of India have thus been hit threefold by the damage Coca Cola has inflicted to their environment through the bottling plants dotted throughout its provinces. The country relies heavily on its agriculture and the devastating mixture of water shortages and polluted soils is having huge repercussions for many of the nation’s poor. However the Indian people are not only being hurt indirectly by the company through the destruction of their farming land, tests of bottled Coca Cola in India have found that the drink contains inordinately high levels of harmful pesticides such as DDT. We all know that Coca Cola isn’t good for us, but the little bit of sugar and caffeine found in the Coca Cola which we drink in New Zealand pales in comparison to the toxic cocktail of chemicals drunk in India. The long-term effects of these chemicals on the human body is as yet unknown, but the cumulative effect of the poisoning of the land along with the poisoning of the body leaves a very undesirable outlook for many of the people of India. And in a country of over one billion souls, that is a lot of unhappy futures.

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What can you do?
Still wanting to enjoy the Coke side of life? If not there are several groups of protestors who have set up websites which you can check out:
•www.cokewatch.org
•www.killercoke.org

And of course there is the option of making the decision not to drink Coca Cola on moral grounds. If everyone does it the company will have to sit up and listen, or face a fate even worse than that they have inflicted on their workers in India and around the world.

Resources:
www.indiaresource.org
www.corpwatch.org/article

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