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Coca-Cola Blamed For India's Water Problems


The Coca-Cola Company is embroiled in a bitter legal fight In India over water rights. Farmers in drought stricken areas of the sub-continent accuse the soft-drink maker of siphoning off badly needed water, but others say the US-based multi-national company may be the target of anti-American sentiments.

Coca-Cola may be the most popular soft drink in the world, but for some in Southern India, clean water is still the drink of choice.

In rural areas from Uttar Pradesh to Kerala, persistent droughts have dried up wells such as this one in the village of Plachimada. For many of the 30,000 people who live here, the only reliable source of water - is the one that arrives everyday in trucks.

Some say the wells dried up three years ago after the Coke bottling plant came to town. This woman says the plant pulled so much water out of the ground, there was nothing left to cook, drink or wash with.

And this farmer says even when they dig deeper wells, the water is unfit for human cosumption.

Following several large protests, the local government revoked the company's license late last year and ordered Coca-Cola to shut down its $25 million plant.

Coke officials insist there is no scientific evidence to link the groundwater shortage to the company's operations. Some Indian leaders believe the issue may be less about science and more about the politics of anti-globalization.

Sitaram Yechuri is a politburo member of the Communist Party of India. "Coca-Cola is also a political product of the America's global success and domination, so on anything that people will turn to be anti-American, Coke will be the first symbol."

Coca-Cola currently has 52 plants in India. According to the India Resource Center, a non-profit group based in the U.S. state of California, communities near those plants are planning their own protests.