There’s another black water contributing to America’s falling standing among the people of the world.

It takes 1.5 gallons of water to make a quart of Coca-Cola.

In March 2000 Coca-Cola opened a plant near a village in southern India to produce 1.2m bottles of Coca-Cola, Fanta, Sprite, Limca, Thumbs Up, Kinley Soda and Maaza every day. The company drilled more than six wells and illegally installed high-powered electric pumps to extract millions of gallons of pure water.

The level of the water table fell from 150 to 500 feet below the surface. 260 drinking water and irrigation wells have run dry. Local women were forced to walk about 3 miles to fetch drinkable water. Part of India’s rice bowl, local crop yields plummeted.

Coke dumped waste into paddy fields, canals and wells; then into dry boreholes that had been drilled on-site for the disposal of solid waste. This contaminated the aquifers. In 2003 the district medical officer advised the people that their water was so polluted that it was unfit for consumption.

How had the company addressed the problem?
It allegedly bribed officials and then sought national leverage. And it hired a public relations firm to pump its green image by giving $20 million to the World Wildlife Fund.

But these weak efforts seem to be failing. India’s Supreme Court has declared Coca-Cola’s property rights do not extend to the ground water below the land it owns, adding that nobody has the right to appropriate the lion’s share of a public resource and the government has no power to license vast quantities of extraction. The Supreme Court has rejected appeals.

Both Coke and Pepsi products are now banned in the state. The Indian parliament has banned the sale of Coke and Pepsi products in its cafeteria finding more than 30 times the toxins allowed in overseas products.

As recently as January 2007, human chains formed around Coca-Cola and Pepsi factories across India.

Protesting Coca-Cola in IndiaFull report here, via Bruno Giussani
Originally published in LeMonde 2005. More coverage here.
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