Kerala State Joins Community in Challenging Coca-Cola's Use of Water
State Defends Village Council Decision to Revoke Coca-Cola License
For Immediate Release
September 15, 2005
San Francisco (September 15): In another major defeat for the Coca-Cola
company in India, the state government of Kerala has challenged the
company's right to use groundwater in the Supreme Court of India,
arguing that water is being taken from poor communities to produce
drinking water for the rich.
The state government of Kerala has specifically appealed a Kerala
High Court ruling of April 7, 2005 that allowed the Coca-Cola company
to extract 500,000 liters of water per day, under normal rainfall
Stating that "poor villages are deprived of drinking water due to
overuse of ground water by Coca-Cola plant at Plachimada to produce
bottled drinks for sale to people who have purchasing capacity in
different cities of the country," the state government also argued
that the local village council (panchayat) was within its rights to
cancel the license of the Coca-Cola plant because it was protecting
the interest of the community.
The state argued that the April 7 High Court decision violated the
right to life guaranteed under Article 21 of the constitution of India,
adding that the High Court should have ruled that the groundwater
belonged to the public.
The Coca-Cola bottling plant in Plachimada in the southern state of
Kerala, is one of Coca-Cola's largest in India. The bottling plant
has remained shut down since March 2004 because the village council
refused to renew Coca-Cola's license, citing the company for creating
severe water shortages and pollution in the area.
The state government's decision to move the Supreme Court is significant
because the state position supports the position of the community
- which has insisted that the Coca-Cola bottling plant has been responsible
for water shortages in the area.
The Perumatty panchayat (village council) has also appealed the April
7, 2005 Kerala High court ruling to the Supreme Court.
The state appeal comes less than a month after a decision by the Kerala
State Pollution Control Board which ordered
the Coca-Cola bottling plant to "stop production of all kinds of products
with immediate effect" on August 19 because of high levels of cadmium
around the bottling plant. The bottling plant was conducting "trial
runs", in complete violation of India laws.
"The state of Kerala has heard the people of Kerala. The Coca-Cola
company should get the message now - they should pack up and leave",
said R. Ajayan, convener of the Plachimada Solidarity Committee, a
statewide coalition of organizations supporting the local campaign.
The Coca-Cola company is in serious trouble in India, as communities
across India are experiencing severe water shortages and pollution
as a result of the company's operations. Local campaigns against the
company have gotten significantly stronger in the last year, and literally
thousands of people, mostly rural villagers, are involved.
The state appeal also argued that over extraction of water by the
Coca-Cola company was violative of three international legal regimes
including American Common Law Reasonable Use Rule, the Restatement
(Second) of Torts Reasonable Use and the Doctrine of Correlative Rights,
governing the use of ground water.
"We welcome the state's appeal which validates the community's assertion
that Coca-Cola's huge extraction of water has come directly at the
expense of the local community", said Amit Srivastava of the India
Resource Center, an international campaigning organization. "This
is also a major step asserting the rights and jurisdiction of local
governments, and we look forward to a swift decision from the judiciary
asserting the community's rights over natural resources."
For more information, visit www.IndiaResource.org
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