Coke and Pepsi can use water from Tamiraparani River

Chennai, Mar 02: In an extensive relief for multinational beverage companies The Coca-Cola Company and PepsiCo India,  the Madras High Court on today said the two soft drinks majors can use water from Tamil Nadu’s Thamirabarani river for making soft drinks or packaged drinking water.

Two years before, in 2015, lots of people were injured in clashes during protests over the use of the Thamirabarani river water by the cola companies.

Coke and Pepsi alleged that they were being targeted; their plants are part of a government industrial estate and water is being supplied to all industries.

The petitioner DA Prabakar, in his plea to High Court, said that the Thamirabarani River supports the drinking water projects and irrigation schemes of the 2 districts – Tirunelveli and Thoothukudi.

He accused the soft drink companies of drawing an intolerable water from the rivers, which they said has impacted farming in Tamil Nadu.

The Cola giants paid only 37.50 paise per 1,000 litres of water extracted and sold their beverages at a much higher cost, he had also alleged in his petition.

He had mentioned in his plea that the Public Works Department(PWD) had not permitted the Tamil Nadu State Industries Promotion Corporation (SIPCOT) to provide water to the bottling units of these companies.

Yet SIPCOT supplied water to the soft drink makers, thus affecting farmers in 5 districts.

The Madras High Court’s Division Bench consisting Justices A Selvam and P Kalaiyarasan also vacated an interim injunction granted by the same court in November last, restraining the State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu (SIPCOT) from supplying water to the two units.

To permit the supply of Tamirabarani river water to the 2 multinational companies may affect the lives of people in 5 districts, the petitioner had said and sought its sale to be stopped.

The Madras High court’s order comes in the middle of another people protest against the Cola companies.

Many retailers in Tamil Nadu batting for local beverage brands have stopped the sales of Coca-Cola and Pepsi since yesterday, citing health concerns.

Recently, during the protests in support of Jallikattu in Chennai and some other cities in Tamil Nadu, some of the protesters spoke up against Coke and Pepsi.