Thursday, June 07, 2007

It Must Be Coke

The Coca-Cola company has been charged with illegally seizing lands communally owned by small farmers and indiscriminately dumping sludge and other industrial hazardous waste onto the surrounding community. The San Francisco-based India Resource Center, an environmental health non-profit, further charged Coca-Cola with releasing untreated wastewater into surrounding agricultural fields and a canal that feeds into the Ganges River in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. The charges are based on the results of a fact-finding mission led by the group to a Coca-Cola bottling plant in the region.

In 2003, in response to a growing campaign against Coca-Cola, the Central Pollution Control Board of India surveyed eight Coca-Cola bottling plants in the country and tested the sludge at all these facilities. The Board found all the sludge at all the Coca-Cola bottling plants it surveyed contained high levels of toxic heavy metals like lead, cadmium, and chromium. At the time, it ordered the Coca-Cola company to treat its sludge as industrial hazardous waste.

On Tuesday, the soft drink giant announced at the annual meeting of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Beijing its own environmental plan, pledging to spend $20 million to conserve seven of the world's most critical river basins. Coke's announcement did not mention any measures to conserve water basins in India,

"We call this 'greenwashing,'" said Srivastava of the India Resource Center. "An attempt by the Coca-Cola company to manufacture a green image of itself that it clearly is not, as their practice in India shows."

" as largely a tactic to divert attention from other areas," Patti Lynn of the watchdog group Corporate Accountability said , adding ,"Coke is just trying to get some public relations points. They're using this as a diversionary tactic,"

Coca-Cola distributes three bottled water brands: Dasani, Dannon, and Evian. Consumers spend about $100 billion on bottled water each year. By comparison, experts estimate that just $15 billion per year, above and beyond what is already spent, could bring reliable and lasting access to safe drinking water to half a billion people worldwide -- fully half of those who lack it.

The annual volume of bottled water purchased and sold in the United States has increased by over 7,000 percent. Yet the bottled water industry operates with little or no regulation.
"Tap water is better regulated, and often safer," said Lynn, quoting a 1999 study by the National Resources Defense Council on bottled water sold in the United States, which found traces of arsenic, chloroform, and other impurities; chemicals that would be illegal if found in tap water and also adding adding that bottled water costs 3,000 percent more to produce than safe tap water .
Social needs will always take second place to the need for capitalism to accumulate profits .

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