Return Land Allocated for Coca-Cola to Panchayat - High Court
Kavita Upadhyay
The Hindu
April 24, 2014

Dehradun: The Nainital High Court’s order on Monday that land meant for a Coca-Cola plant should be returned to the Chharba gram panchayat has brought relief to the locals. The villagers have been opposing the setting up of the plant.

The Chharba village, located around 32 km from Dehradun, has around 70,000 trees. According to a memorandum of understanding signed between the Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Private Limited and the Uttarakhand government, the HCCBPL would set up a Rs. 600-crore bottling plant on 60 acres of land in the village. The construction of the plant would result in the cutting of a majority of these trees.

The MoU was signed on April 17 last year and on April 18 the villagers took to the streets against the plant.

Nitin Pandey, co-ordinator of Citizens for Green Doon, an organisation working for the protection of environment in the Dehradun area, filed a public interest litigation (PIL) petition in the Nainital High Court seeking that the land be returned to the gram panchayat.

Indra Singh Negi, a social activist, said: “In 2005, the Chharba gram sabha transferred land to the State government on the grounds that the Doon University would set up a campus there. However, the land remained unutilised for three years after which ­ as per the law ­ it should have been returned to the gram panchayat.”

Mr. Pandey said that after seven years the land was transferred to the State Industrial Development Department of Uttarakhand without the concurrence of the gram panchayat.

The Coca-Cola project requires 6 million litres of water per day, it is said.

Rumi Ram Jaswal, Gram Pradhan of Chharba, said, “Around three decades ago the village used to be a dry belt. The local people then planted trees which are now a source of fodder. The springs and local streams in the area were recharged because of the trees and we use the water for our daily needs.”

Chharba has a population of 10,000. The villagers fear that cutting the trees would again change the area into a dry belt.

Mr. Jaswal said, “Though the High Court has decided in our favour, this legal battle with the State government will go on for some time and we are ready for it.”

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