Madras HC stops soft drinks giants from using Thamirabarani waters

An interim order from the Bench says river water should not be used for making commercial products; five crore litres of water presently used by industries in two districts.

Published: 22nd November 2016 02:52 AM  |   Last Updated: 22nd November 2016 11:54 AM   |  A+A-

By Express News Service

MADURAI: The Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court in its interim order has banned two soft drinks majors, Pepsi and Coca Cola, from drawing water from the Thamirabarani River for the purpose of producing commercial products like soft drinks or packaged drinking water.

In his public interest litigation (PIL), D A Prabakar of Tirunelveli said the Thamirabarani River, originating from the western ghats and flowing through Tirunelveli and Thoothukudi, supported the drinking water projects and irrigation schemes of the two districts.

Apart from implementing about 20 integrated drinking water projects, for which 12.5 crore litres of water was being tapped every day in Tirunelveli district, the Tamil Nadu Water and Drainage TWAD) Board has been managing various other drinking water schemes for Thoothukudi, Virudhunagar and Ramanathapuram districts. About 10 crore litres of water was taken daily for drinking, in only Thoothukudi and Ramanathapuram.

Against this background, about 5 crore litres of water was taken from the river for industrial purposes in Tirunelveli and Thoothukudi.

More than 27 industrial establishments have been functioning at SIPCOT in Gangaikondan near Tirunelveli while in the SIPCOT complex in Thoothukudi, 73 industries are being run. As many as 1,84,0871 litres and 15,89,769 liters of water are being supplied to the industries in the respective SIPCOT complexes, said the petitioner.

Prathishta Business Solution, co-packer of Pepsi Cola Company and South India Bottling company, the co-packer of Coca Cola Company, are being operated on about 30 acres each in Gangaikondan SIPCOT.
They were given contract for a period of 99 years. The state government has agreed to supply 9 lakh litres and 15 lakh litres of water daily to those two companies respectively.

It is given at the rate of `37.50 per 1000 litres, said the petitioner, adding that it is sorry state of affair that the same multinational companies were allowed to sell their soft drinks and drinking water at enormous rates.

Moreover, Gangaikondan was declared as spotted deer national sanctuary. There was an exclusive park for the animal. These two companies were located within 4 km radius of the spotted deer park and if they were supplied huge amounts of water from the Thamirbarani, it may affect the deer population too.
So the court should restrain the SIPCOT from supplying water to the companies, he prayed.

When the petition was heard on Monday, a division bench of Justices S Nagamuthu and M V Muralidaran has banned the two soft drinks firms from drawing water from the river for producing soft drinks or any beverages or packaged drinking water, saying that it is important to protect the interests of farmers and common man.

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