Coke not to close Kerala plant: official

By Arun Kumar


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Atlanta : Coca-Cola will not close its plant in Kerala where it had to suspend operations two years ago following an agitation against it for allegedly misusing ground water resources, a top company official said here.

Several government tests have found the allegations to be baseless and the company is ready to wait until the issue is resolved to the satisfaction of everyone, said Jeff Seabright, vice president, environment and water resources, at Coca-Cola.

"India is important for us and we are committed to be there for the long term," Seabright said at the grand opening in Atlanta of the new "World of Coca-Cola" attraction, which tells the 121-year-old company's success story through a thousand rare artefacts.

"It's (the company) also learning everyday to be a better corporate socially responsible citizen," he said, noting that the firm is building 320 rain harvesting structures in India.

It is also helping in rejuvenation of traditional water bodies called 'bawaris' in Rajasthan, building check dams in Andhra Pradesh and is involved in a major watershed development project.

Similarly, Coca-Cola is running 70 programmes in 40 other countries with a total investment of $17 million to ensure access to clean drinking water in underserved communities where it operates, Seabright said.

Environmental projects in India are among community-based programmes featured on a portrait wall in the new world of Coca-Cola. Here, audio wands let visitors listen to people in the larger-than life portraits about how they have been touched by such programmes.

The 92,000 sq ft facility also has a collection of over-sized Coca-Cola "folk-art" bottles from India and other countries. Created by artists across the world, these were displayed to the public during the 1996 summer Olympics held in Atlanta.

Guests can also wander through a real, functioning bottling plant via a glass tunnel with a "ghost" image explaining what's happening. The pop culture gallery provides a look at how celebrities from around the world have interpreted the brand through art.

A 4D short film "In Search of the Secret Formula" follows an eccentric scientist and his assistant as the seats shake and water is sprayed on one's face adding another dimension to the experience.

An original Coca-Cola can from a trip on board the space shuttle Challenger in 1985, when the a soft drink was first served in outer space, is also on display.

So is an Oscar statue for the 1982 Best Picture "Gandhi". The company got the prize as it then owned Columbia pictures studios that produced the film.