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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 January, 2005, 18:48 GMT
Cola companies told to quit India
Indian school children protest against Coca-Cola
The protesters say 100,000 people took part
Activists in India have held nationwide protests against multinational soft drink companies Coca-Cola and Pepsi.

Reports said thousands of protesters had gathered near manufacturing plants of the two firms and demanded that they stop production.

Activists want the firms to leave India because they say their plants deplete ground water - claims the soft drinks giants both strenuously deny.

Spokesmen for the two firms dismissed the protests as low-key.

Ground water 'destroyed'

The demonstrations across India were organised by the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology (RFSTE)

Protests against Coca Cola drinks in Delhi
Coca-Cola downplayed the size of the demonstrations

Its representatives said that at least 100,000 people participated in the campaign and formed human chains to protest against the drinks giants.

Organisers said "Quit India" notices had been handed in at 45 plants.

"The factories must close down as they are not only guilty of uncertain standards in their drinks, but they are also depleting groundwater," one protester, Vinay Sagar, told the AFP news agency.

The protests were held to mark 1,000 days of opposition to a Coca-Cola manufacturing plant in the southern state of Kerala.

Coca-Cola suspended operations at the plant on the orders of the state government after villagers complained of acute water shortages in the area.

They claimed the company was releasing effluent into the underground water and using too much of it, leaving little for local people.

The matter is in the hands of the Kerala High Court.

'Politically motivated'

Coca-Cola and Pepsi account for more than 90% of the carbonated drinks market in India and together sell more than 500 million bottles every year.

Spokesmen for the two firms said only a handful of people had gathered at some of their plants.

Coca-Cola issued a statement saying that the company believed the protests were "politically, rather than environmentally motivated".

The statement rejected criticism of Coca Cola's water usage in India, saying the company had won acclaim for its approach to water management.

The company statement said that the protests took place in only five to six areas, and that dozens of people had participated, rather than hundreds of thousands.

Coca-Cola insists all its plants are safe and any toxins are within legal limits.

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