Plachimada Groups Welcome State Move to Notify Perumatty Panchayat, Challenge Coca-Cola

Plachimada Solidarity Committee
Coca-Cola Virudha Samara Samithy

November 28, 2005

Plachimada: The Coca-Coal Virudha Samara Samithy and the Plachimada Aikyadhardya Samithy welcomes the decision of the Kerala Government to declare 31 Panchayats of the State as 'Notified Areas" under clause 6 of the Kerala Ground Water (Control and Regulation), Act, 2002 on 19 November 2005.

It has taken 3 long years to get this very important law activated despite the water related crisis and protests across the state and litigations to demand the implementation of the law. The law itself is essentially to regulate the use and protect ground water for sustainable use with the greatest common good of the society in mind. This delay and reluctance of the government to activate this law reflects the sorry state to which our governance system has been pushed into under the vice grip of private and global capital.

Inconvenient laws for the largest common good that can also curtail unhindered profits by plunder remain inactivated or get deactivated when it comes to big and multinational companies as well as foreign investors. It took the valiant sustained struggles of the people of Plachimada against the MNC giant Coca Cola and the widespread support for their just struggles within the state, across the country and globally that forced the Government of Kerala to even activate this important law enacted in 2002 - a law passed to protect and preserve ground water to serve the common interests and basic needs of all the people of the state.

Of the 31 Panchayats declared as "Notified Area", Perumatty panchayat where Plachimada is situated is one and is identified as "over exploited". Now under Clause 8 (5) of the said Act on 'Registration of the existing wells of the notified area', Coca Cola Company at Plachimada is to apply for registration of the company's wells and bore wells within 120 days to the newly formed Ground Water Regulatory Authority (GWRA). Coca-Cola would have to register all its 2 dug wells and 6 borewells with energized wells that has been permitted to extract ground water up to a maximum 5 lakh liters per day under normal rainfall conditions by the High Court based on the study of an expert investigative team set up under orders of the court. The final report of the team was submitted on 11 February 2005. This report itself came for criticism for adopting inappropriate and incorrect approach, selective use and misuse of data and ignoring inconvenient data. Despite all these, it may be noted that the Team itself was constrained to recommend strict restrictions to extraction of ground by Coca Cola.

Poisoning Plachimada Ground Water

There are 40 dug wells and 9 bore wells within 1 sq km of Coca-Cola factory not including those owned by Coca Cola which have in one way or other been affected in terms of quality and quantity in varying degrees. Two types of problems have been induced by Coca Cola in the surrounding areas. The first is the change in the general quality of ground water consequent to the change in the composition of ground water on the commencement of extraction by Coca Cola. Various tests beginning from March 2002 have reported that "very high levels of 'hardness' and salinity that would render water unfit for human consumption, domestic use (bathing and washing), and for irrigation." This was further corroborated by the Primary Health Centre who concluded that the "water is not potable around the Coca Cola Factory at Plachimada" on 13.05.2003 based on the analysis of water samples at the regional Analytical Laboratory.

'Outlook' magazine initiated water analysis on 23 April 2005 reported that the water "chemically does not meet the requirements for most of the parameters tested for potability as per ISO 10500 specifications set by the Bureau of Indian Standards."..a pH value of 3.53 (against the permissible 6.5-8.5 at 25 degree C), making it "highly acidic". ."If consumed, it will burn up your insides." Such water cannot be used for cooking, washing or agriculture. "Clothes could tear if washed in such water, food will rot, and crops will wither,". While the permissible level of total dissolved solids (TDS) in potable water is 2,000, the water recorded a TDS count of 9,624. The permissible manganese level is 0.3, but was 6.18 in the tested sample. Likewise, iron was 1.58 while it should be 1 or less."

The second is the pollution due to the illegal criminal discharge of hazardous waste in the form of slurry and sludge in and all around the factory leading to presence of high levels of cadmium and lead with lesser presence of other heavy metals, including nickel, chromium and zinc. The Kerala State Pollution Control Board has in its order PCB/PLKD/CE/32/99 dated 19.08.2005 has accused HCCB of not divulging the use of cadmium (and lead) when the sludge generated by the company had 400 to 600% above the tolerance/ permissible limit based on which the Board has refused grant of clearance.

Velur Swaminathan, Convenor Vilayodi Venugopal, Patron
Coca-Cola Virudha Samara Samithy
R.Ajayan, Convenor
Plachimada Solidarity Committee
Plachimada, Chittur Taluk, Palakkad district, Kerala
Ph: - 98471 42513


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