Protests Against Coca-Cola's Kinley plant in Manjhapetty, Kerala
Bangalore - After being forced to halt operations of its soft drinks
plant at Plachimada near Palakkad, following allegations regarding
misuse of groundwater, Coca-Cola's bottled water business in Kerala
is hit by an agitation on the same issue.
NeST Foods & Beverages, Coca-Cola's ally in the State, which manages
Kinley, has suspended operations of its plant near Perumbavoor in
Kochi district even as a local village welfare standing committee
- in the wake of mounting political pressure and accusations about
it depleting the water table - passed a resolution recommending ban
on the use of groundwater for Kinley.
The Vazhakulam panchayat committee now wants an expert panel to look
into the allegation of misuse of groundwater by the NeST plant before
giving a final ratification to the standing committee's move to ban
drawing groundwater. NeST's bottled water plant employs about 100
people and has roughly equal number of workforce involved with the
distribution of Kinley brand.
NeST sources claimed that the company's plant was being targeted as
part of the "ongoing vilification campaign" against Coca-Cola in the
"Our plant in Manjhapetty (near Perumbavoor) is not located in an
area notified by the groundwater authorities. The charge that we are
drawing between 1.5 to two lakh litres of water daily is absurd. The
fact is that in our three years of operations, Kinley's average daily
sales has never crossed 30,000 litres," a NeST official told this
The local pressure groups have also been accusing that NeST plant
supplied tanker loads of water to Coca-Cola's recently closed soft
drinks plant at Plachimada.
Even as NeST officials claim that groundwater issue is being raised
as a bogey to leverage on the labour disputes involving casual workers,
both Coca-Cola and its ally have been at the receiving end of local
media reports for several months now.
Sources said the focus of agitation shifted to NeST and its franchisee
operations for Kinley after media reports (Business Line, February
7) that Coca-Cola would look at exiting the State after handing over
the Plachimada plant to the local partner.
Last month, the Government of Kerala told Coca-Cola that villages
in the Plachimada area were facing an acute drought and that the soft-drink
company should not use groundwater until June 15. This followed a
High Court order in December instructing Coca-Cola to stop using local
The company has denied allegations it is affecting the local environment
and the State had imposed ban only on Coke without any scientific
proof even as nearly 30 other factories in the area continue to draw
groundwater without any governmental curbs.
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