State Government Bans Coca-Cola from Using Groundwater
Indo-Asian News Service
February 17, 2004

Thiruvananthapuram: Soft drinks giant Coca-Cola was Tuesday prohibited from using water from the wells in its Kerala plant till June 15. Putting the multinational on notice, Kerala Chief Minister A.K. Antony said the company could use groundwater from the wells in its factory at Plachimada in the state's Palakkad district only after June 15 - by which time monsoon rains can be expected to recharge the groundwater.

"The cabinet decided to ask them to stop using the groundwater within their factory with immediate effect because Palakkad district on a whole is facing a serious water shortage," Antony told reporters after the weekly cabinet meeting.

"They are allowed to use the water from their wells only after June 15," he said.

The Coke plant has six wells within the factory. With this latest decision, company officials have to either look for water from elsewhere or else close down till June 15.

Interestingly, the cabinet decision makes no mention of the Pepsi plant also in Palakkad district.

"For the time being, this decision is applicable only to Coke and not to Pepsi. The date June 15 has been fixed as it is the time when the monsoon gets stronger," said Antony.

He did not disclose why Pepsi was exempted.

The Coke factory was anyway living on government time as the Kerala High Court had last month given it a month's time to find alternative sources of water.

The going has been rough for the company ever since a BBC Radio report in September last had said that cadmium and lead, much above the prescribed limits, was found in the sludge from the factory. The sludge was distributed free to the locals who used it as fertiliser.

The entire opposition Left Democratic Front (LDF) has been pressing for the plant's closure.

The Plachimada plant was set up in 2000 with an investment of Rs. 800 million.

Coca-Cola officials are yet to react to the state government's decision.

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