State of Kerala Challenges Coca-Cola's Right to Extract Water

State Justifies Village Council Action Against Coca-Cola

The Hindu
September 15, 2005

New Delhi: The Kerala Government on Wednesday filed a special leave petition (SLP) challenging a judgment of the Kerala High Court allowing Coca-Cola to draw five lakh litres of groundwater for its Plachimada bottling unit.

The apex court on August 12 had issued notice to Coca-Cola on an SLP filed by the Perumatty grama panchayat seeking a stay on the same judgment.

In its SLP filed by counsel K. R. Sasiprabhu, the State said this was a case of a village community being deprived of the water needed for its livelihood, mainly due to the industrial activities of a multinational company.

Justifying the action of the panchayat in refusing to renew the licence of the company, the State said the local authority had taken the step to protect the interest of the village community. The `cause-and-effect' relationship between Coca-Cola drawing underground water and the level of the water table in the area had been established through various surveys.

It said the poor villagers were deprived of drinking water as a result of the company's action to overdraw underground water to produce bottled drinks for sale to the rich. Further, it alleged that the community's water was being lifted to make bottled drinks for the purposes of export. The State said the poor people in the village could not afford to buy bottled drinks to quench their thirst.

The SLP submitted that the High Court was not right in castigating the fears of the people as one of an ego trip against the company.

The SLP contended that the High Court ought to have held that underground water belonged to the public and when it was apprehended that excessive withdrawal for business would create scarcity of drinking water, the local authority was well within its right to evoke its policing power.

The SLP said that drawing huge quantity of water by the company would cause loss and injury to adjacent properties and in that event there would be public agitations, which could lead to a chaotic situation.

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