Coke in hot water

Sunday 15 June 2003

The Kerala High Court has ordered status quo to be maintained on the cancellation of Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Limited's licence to operate its bottling plant at Plachimada in Kerala. The licence had been cancelled by the Perumatty gram panchayat in Palakkad district of Kerala, following complaints that the company was creating water scarcity in the area by overexploiting groundwater.

Justice K Thankappan also ordered the state government to decide within a month on the representation that the company plans to file against the panchayat's decision. On its part, the company contended that it had been denied hearing by the panchayat before it took the decision.

Similar allegations have been levelled against the soft-drink giant in Rajasthan's Kala Dera village, which is located near Jaipur. Its plant in the village seems to have sucked dry the ponds and wells in the area. The villagers allege that groundwater levels have gone down by more than 150 feet after the bottling plant was set up. They have dispatched a memorandum to Rajasthan chief minister Ashok Gehlot, requesting relocation of the cola plant. The company, meanwhile, claims it is not using even 20 per cent of the quota it is entitled to.

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