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Thursday, 15 August, 2002, 17:17 GMT 18:17 UK
Coke paints the Himalayas red
Coke logo on the Himachal Pradesh mountains
The mountains are protected by environmental laws
Coca-Cola and Pepsi have been asked by India's Supreme Court to explain why they have plastered adverts on the side of the Himalaya mountains

Judges issued notices against the companies after the court heard logos had been painted directly onto the rock face alongside more than fifty-kilometres of road along the Rohtang pass in Himachal Pradesh.

Pepsi logo on the Himachal Pradesh mountains
Sunil Gupta, a spokesman for Coca-Cola India, told the BBC's World Business Report the advertisements were outside the company's control.

"It's actually a franchise area, it is not under the distribution and marketing of Coca-Cola India," he said.

"We have very strict guidelines, advertising has to be near an outlet and can only be on walls and in the shop, so the Supreme Court ruling came as quite a shock," he added.

No control

Pepsi said it did not operate directly in the area and had contacted the company's local franchisees resolve the problem.

"In India, in substantial parts of the markets including Himachal Pradesh, PepsiCo operates through franchisee bottlers who in turn operate through their distributors," Pepsi said in a statement to AFP.

"It was brought to our notice... through a press report that one rock near Manali had been painted with the Pepsi logo," it added.

A man on the case

The area in Himachal Pradesh is supposedly protected by strict conservation laws.

The rocks support many different species of moss which, the court was told, had been destroyed by the painting.

Removing the advertisements could cause further ecological damage because it would require many litres of paint remover or thinner.

"They're [painted] on rocks but we still have to ascertain their size and number," Mr Gupta said.

"We have asked our franchises to send us photographs and we have sent a man there."

Coke is it

The court was told the advertisements had been plastered on an entire mountain side from the village of Kothi to Rallah waterfalls to Beas Kund, a stretch of about 56 kilometres.

Coke said it was not sure if it would pay the clean-up cost.

"We have asked our franchises to go and see how corrective measures could take effect," Mr Gupta said.

"It was not done by the franchisees, but contracted out to painters and [the franchisees] deducted the money from the painters remuneration when they found out it had been done because it is not our policy," he said.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Sunil Gupta, Coca-Cola India
"It's actually a franchise area, it is not under the distribution and marketing of Coca-Cola India"
See also:

19 Jul 02 | Business
17 Jul 02 | Business
19 Jun 02 | Business
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