Coke suspends bottling at plant at centre of water dispute

NEW DELHI – Coca-Cola suspended bottling at three plants in India, including one in the parched northwest where farmers have been protesting the company’s groundwater use.

Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages, which is a subsidiary of The Coca-Cola Co. based in Atlanta, says in a statement Thursday it is reorganizing operations across its 24 franchise bottling plants in India according to market demand and factory upgrades.

The company’s action, however, follows more than a decade of agitation by farmers in the state of Rajasthan, where groundwater levels have been plummeting.

Coca-Cola says it runs the Kaladera plant in Rajasthan “as a responsible corporate citizen,” and is also collecting rainwater and helping farmers to irrigate their crops. The plant is still being used for storage and other operations.