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"Water Rights" Tour Begins in India

"Water Rights" Tour Begins in India
Coca-Cola, Pepsi Bottling Plants Targeted

For Immediate Release
September 11, 2006


Varanasi, India: A 3-week long tour to assert community rights over water began yesterday in Mehdiganj, in the north Indian state of Uttar Pradesh.

The tour was flagged off at Mehdiganj, the site of one of Coca-Cola's bottling plants in India which has been accused of creating severe water shortages and pollution.

The tour will go through most of the state of Uttar Pradesh, stopping at both Coca-Cola and Pepsico plants in the state to bring attention to the water shortages and pollution being caused by the companies.

The tour will also stop in Kala Dera in Rajasthan, the site of another community campaign accusing the Coca-Cola bottling plant of creating water shortages. The tour will end in Delhi on October 3, and will include a protest in front of Coca-Cola's Indian headquarters in Gurgaon, near Delhi.

"The yatra (tour) is a campaign signaling the beginning of the end of Coca-Cola and Pepsico in India," said Nandlal Master of Lok Samiti, one of the main organizers of the tour who have also organized a series of protests against Coca-Cola's bottling plant in Mehdiganj.

"Privatization of water, where the cola companies get large amounts of groundwater practically for free, is not working for us. It leaves us without water, and is destroying the lives and livelihoods of thousands of farmers in India. Communities must have primary rights over water," said Nandlal Master.

A recent study of the water conditions in eight villages within a 3 kilometer radius of the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Mehdiganj found that the number of wells that had dried up increased seven-fold since Coca-Cola commenced operations in the area, and on an average, the water levels in the wells in the area had dropped 18 feet.

Both Coca-Cola and Pepsi have been under fire in India recently after a study showed that their products contained excessively high levels of pesticides. Seven Indian states have imposed partial bans on the sale of Coca-Cola and Pepsi products, and the state of Kerala in south India has also shut down both the companies' plants.

Dr. Sandeep Pandey of the National Alliance of People's Movements, also one of the primary organizers of the march, said that the "focal point of yatra is to highlight the miseries of farmers and communities as a result of the extraction of enormous ground water by companies for commercial use."

Both organizations have called for a boycott of Coca-Cola and Pepsi products.

"The government of India must immediately adopt stringent measures to protect the natural resources of the country from rampant exploitation," said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center, an international campaigning organization. "Coca-Cola and Pepsico's involvement in India cannot be called development. Their activities deprive the very fabric of India - its farmers - of one of its most essential resources, water."

For more information, visit www.IndiaResource.org

ENDS

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