`Save Tamirabarani' padayatra begins at Papanasam

Staff Reporter

TIRUNELVELI: The `Joint Action Group for Tamiraparani and Ground Water Conservation' (JAGTGWC), an alliance of over 40 trade unions, farmers' associations, human rights groups and non-governmental organisations, began a 120-km `padayatra' from Papanasam in Tirunelveli district to Authoor in Tuticorin district, on Saturday.

The `padayatra' was flagged off by the Madurai MP, P. Mohan, against the unit being set up by South India Bottling Company Limited (SIBCL), a franchisee, which is going to produce a range of beverages for the multi-national soft drink major, Coca-Cola, at SIPCOT Industrial Estate at Gangaikondan near here. Since this unit is reportedly going to consume over six lakh litres of water everyday, various organisations, farmers' associations and the Left Parties are vehemently opposing the unit. The `padayatra' would culminate in Authoor on July 12.

Terming the Tamiraparani as a `treasure of the nation', Mr. Mohan said all citizens of Tirunelveli and Tuticorin districts should save the perennial river from being looted by a private soft drink manufacturing unit. "The Pollution Control Board, which does not accord its permission to the Sethusamudram Ship Channel Project, has given permission to set up this controversial unit to manufacture soft drinks'', he said, asking why the State Government gave its permission, though the Parliament Committee and some NGOs exposed the presence of toxic substances in the beverages of multi-national soft drink companies.

The company, which was in need of water to prepare beverages, could set up a desalination plant in a remote coastal area, he said.

Mr. Mohan assured that the MPs of the Left parties would raise this issue in Parliament.

The convenor of JAGTGWC and a former MLA, R. Krishnan, who was leading the `padayatra', said the Gangaikondan unit would sound the death knell to the river.

The director of `Vaan Muhil,' M.A. Britto, the director of Navajeevan Trust, B. Nalan, the district secretary of Tamil Nadu Science Forum, C. Muthukumarasamy, and others spoke.

Over 100 women are participating in the `padayatra.'

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