Madras HC restrains SIPCOT from giving water to beverage plants from Tamirabarani

Chennai,Nov22:The Madras High Court Bench here on Monday restrained the State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu (SIPCOT) from supplying water from Tamirabarani River to Prathishta Business Solutions and South India Bottling Company, co-packers for PepsiCo and Coca Cola respectively, for manufacture of aerated drinks and packaged drinking water at their plants inside the SIPCOT Industrial Growth Centre at Gangaikondan village in Tirunelveli district.

A Division Bench of Justices S. Nagamuthu and M.V. Muralidaran granted the interim injunction on a public interest litigation petition filed by activist D.A. Prabakar of Palayamkottai in Tirunelveli district. The petitioner had claimed that the sale of the river water to the two soft drink manufacturers at throwaway prices had caused immense hardship to farmers and other residents of Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi, Virudhunagar and Ramanathapuram districts, who were dependant on the river water.

In his affidavit, the petitioner claimed that SIPCOT had leased out 36 acres of land to Prathishta Business Solutions for a period of 99 years at a nominal rate of Rs.15 lakh per acre. The Corporation had also agreed to sell 15 lakh litres of water every day to the company at the rate of Rs. 37.50 for every 1,000 litres. He said that the permission was granted despite large-scale protests staged by the agriculturalists, political parties, activists and other like-minded people.

A similar agreement had been reached with South India Bottling Company, which had taken 31.54 acres of land on lease at the Industrial Growth Centre. Pointing out that both the companies had been functioning much to the dismay of the farmers and the general public in the four districts, the petitioner said that an attempt made by South India Bottling Company to establish a plant at SIPCOT industrial area at Perunthurai in Erode district, was dropped last year due to strong protests.

“At present, there is acute shortage of drinking water in Tirunelveli Municipal Corporation apart from the municipalities, town panchayats and village panchayats falling within Tirunelveli, Thoothukudi, Virudhunagar and Ramanathapuram. Further, as of now, major reservoirs such as Papanasam and Manimuthar are closed, resulting in great hardship to agriculturalists,” the petitioner said and sought to permanently forbear the State government from supplying water to the soft drink plants.

The petitioner pointed out that another PIL petition filed last year, against the supply of water to the private companies, was pending in the High Court Bench here.