Coca-Cola, Pepsi Plundering India's Water: Maneka Gandhi
Kochi, Kerala: Accusing softdrinks majors Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola
of ''plundering'' India's groundwater resources while contributing
''little'' to the country, Member of Parliament Maneka Gandhi today
said the policy planners need to rethink on the current anti-environment
industrialisation model .
Inaugurating a seminar here on 'Core Values as a Strategy for Environmental
Conservation', organised by the Kerala Chamber of Commerce and Industry,
Ms Gandhi said businesses must do an environment audit before starting
out on new ventures.
''Everywhere we are seeing rivers being polluted, mangroves and forests
cut down and groundwater reserves being depleted in the name of industrialisation.
To create wealth for a few, the livelihood of thousands of fishermen
and tribals is being sacrificed,'' she added.
Claiming that the two multinational softrink companies were extracting
50 to 60 million litres of groundwater per year, Ms Gandhi said if
the people in Plachimada, Kerala, could feel the pinch, what would
be the plight of the poor villagers in Rajasthan.
''These companies take our groundwater, put in a pinch of essence
imported from the United States and then sell us our water at a price
of Rs 12 per bottle. They have created hardly any jobs and have not
invested in social work, only in cricket, and there also the uniforms
have to be sponsored by an Indian company,'' she added.
Warning Kerala against playing with its environment, Mrs Gandhi said
she had heard with concern that plans were afoot to cut down mangroves
on an estuary in Kochi to make way for an LPG plant.
''Similarly, the Central Government has decided to lease 38,000 km
of forestland on the Andhra Pradesh-Karnataka border to a Mauritian
company to do goldmining. We have to question what is more important
for us -- trees or gold,'' she added.
While the cutting down of mangroves will have an adverse impact on
fishermen, the cutting down of forestlands will displace tribals.
These ''environment refugees'' will then land up in the already congested
cities, Mrs Gandhi said.
Stating that Nature doubly rewarded those, who took care not to hurt
its creatures, Mrs Gandhi said ''it is no coincidence that the fully-vegetarian
Jain community is among the richest in the world.'' Also present on
the occasion were Kochi Mayor Mercy Williams and MLA K V Thomas.
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