High Court Directs Coca-Cola to Stop Using Groundwater
KOCHI Dec. 16. The Kerala High Court today directed Hindustan Coca-Cola
Beverages Private Limited to find out alternative sources of water
for its bottling plant at Plachimada in Palakkad in a month.
Justice K. Balakrishnan Nair also directed the Perumatty grama panchayat
not to interfere with the functioning of the company if it used the
water drawn from other sources. Besides, the company should only be
allowed to use the quantity of water equivalent to that used by a
landowner with 34 acres of land. The panchayat and the State Government
had been directed to ensure that the company did not extract any excess
ground water after one month from today. They should also ensure that
all the borewells were closed after one month.
The court ordered that the panchayat with the assistance of the Ground
Water Department should find out the quantity of water a landowner
with 34 acres had been using for his/her domestic and agricultural
purposes. The arrangement for drawing water and its monitoring should
be done in a transparent manner.
These directives were issued while disposing of a writ petition filed
by the Perumatty grama panchayat against a government order staying
the cancellation of licence of the company. The court also modified
the panchayat and government orders. The Government had also directed
the panchayat to constitute an expert team consisting of representatives
of the Ground Water Department, the Pollution Control Board and the
Public Health Department to go into the allegations against the company.
The licence was cancelled by the panchayat on May 15, 2003 on the
ground of over-exploitation of ground water. The panchayat had contended
that the Government had no power to pass such an order. The judge
held that the ground water belonged to the people and the Government
had no right to allow a private party to extract such a huge quantity
of ground water which was "a property held by it in trust''. If the
company were allowed to draw such quantity of water, then similar
claims of other landowners would have to be allowed. It would result
in drying up the ground water.
The Coca-Cola company said it would be filing appeal against the order
of the single judge. It pointed out that the order was one of the
orders passed in multiple proceedings arising out of various show-cause
notices issued by the Perumatty grama panchayat on the subject. The
Division Bench of the High Court is also for December 18.
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