Panchayat to take on Pepsico

Eleven years after aerated drinks major Coca-Cola was forced to down shutters of its bottling plant at Perumatty in water-starved Palakkad district, a failed monsoon and an impending drought are causing yet another water war involving Pepsico India and the people of Pudussery grama panchayat.

Riding over a mass demand from the local community, the grama panchayat authorities have issued a notice to the company seeking explanation for ‘over extraction of groundwater’ at its bottling plant in Kanjikode. The panchayat council that met last week decided to serve the notice apart from consulting legal experts to decide on the future course of action. The local body alleges that Pepsico India is drawing nearly 6.5 to 15 lakh litres of groundwater a day though it has been given permission only to use 2.4 lakh litres daily.

The company, located in an industrial park surrounded by water-starved villages, is also accused of operating ten borewells of over six inches in diameter for exploiting groundwater. Though the panchayat had earlier sought the cooperation of the groundwater department to conduct a joint inspection, the department refused to cooperate without citing any reason. Now, the local body has sought the intervention of the State government and district administration.

Stop memo likely

The panchayat is also planning to issue a stop memo to the company by next week. Panchayat members and government officials allege that government-appointed hydrologists are not being allowed to check the quantity of groundwater sourced by Pepsico.

“The company is exploiting groundwater at a time when over 300 borewells of local farmers have turned dry. The panchayat is now depending on tanker lorries for drinking water,” panchayat president K. Unnikrishnan told The Hindu .

The Pepsi plant, in 53 acres, uses nearly 48.5 per cent of the available groundwater in the region, he said.

Company stance

Pepsico officials, however, told The Hindu that the company had been running the unit as per norms. It has been reducing its water debit (amount of water used) and increasing its water credit (amount of water it gives back) by recharging water for use in agriculture, within the communities, and at the company’s plants.

They said rainwater harvesting methods had been adopted at the Palakkad plant. “We have initiated roof-water harvesting in a big way, using percolation ponds. Treated effluent water is being used for gardening, irrigation etc. We have also reduced the water use ratio at the plant,” they said.

Pepsico drawing nearly 6.5 to 15 lakh litres of groundwater a day, says local body

It has been given permission only to use 2.4 lakh litres daily

300 borewells in the vicnity have turned dry

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Printable version | Mar 4, 2021 3:25:15 AM |

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