No Coca Cola Plant Clearing Forests – Villagers in Uttarakhand


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Another Chipko movement to save the forest may well be on the horizon. Uttarakhand government has promised Coca Cola 60 acres of forest land to set up a Rs. 600 crore plant in Charba after getting environmental clearance from a committee. Thousands of villagers from 15 Panchayats gathered in Charba to protest the plan to clear the forests. The community forests, according to the villagers, have been planted and nurtured by them for three decades. These forests have boosted the water sources of the region, and once the forests are gone, the water sources will dry up, Charba gram pradhan Rumiram Jaswal has said. The farmer population of the village are hence against the project which will create drought-like conditions. The protesters plan to launch a tree hugging movement, taking a cue from the famous Chipko movement.

BJP national secretary Trivendra Singh Rawat and State general secretary Prakash Pant and other party workers came to the village to support the villagers against the project in getting which the Congress chief minister Vijay Bahuguna played a key role, but the protesting villagers did not allow them on the dais, saying that they would not allow political parties to hijack their movement.

Allegations of environmental abuse is not news for Coca Cola. Many areas near Coca Cola bottling plants experience severe water shortage. With the forests gone and the plant in, the water crisis fears among the villagers are absolutely legitimate. Coca Cola plant’s drawing up of groundwater without concern for the ecosystem has caused drying up of wells and no water in water pumps. The plant activities cause groundwater pollution. The waste from the plant causes pollution where it is dumped and where it washes to, including rivers like the Ganges. In Plachimada and Mehdiganj, Coca Colawas found selling its plant waste as ‘fertilizer’ in which toxic substances like lead and cadmium were found. The drinks are also high on pesticides, due to which they are banned in the Parliament of India cafeteria.

In a society where a large number of people are dependent on agriculture, and the extensive use of chemical pesticides, fertilizers and GMO seeds which require high water input has been promoted through the Green Revolution and other government and private efforts, water shortage in a region can spark a low agricultural output crisis which can trigger other kinds of crises including that of employment and over-migration. And of course, there is the pollution and all that comes with it. In short, a Coca Cola plant can bring nightmarish conditions to an area. The list of resistance against CocaCola plants is pretty long. Some of the well known ones are Kala Dera(Rajasthan), Plachimada(Kerala), Mehdiganj (Uttar Pradesh).

 

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