Chennai : In a major relief to cola majors Coca-Cola India and PepsiCo India, the Madras High Court has allowed them to draw water from the Thamirabarani River for their bottling plants in Tirunelveli district in Tamil Nadu.
The Madurai bench of the court dismissed a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by D A Prabakar and Appavo and lifted a ban imposed late last year by the HC on the companies for drawing water from the river.
The HC had given the interim injunction last November, following which the cola majors had sought a direction on lifting the ban, saying that they were using only the surplus water.
The companies had contended that SIPCOT provides them only surplus water from the Thamirabarani and their consumption was far less than many other companies in the neighbourhood.
The PIL had said that the river supported drinking water projects and irrigation in the Tirunelveli and Tuticorin districts and that drawing of water for the bottling plants of these companies deprived farmers of their livelihood, who were unable to take up farming activities.
The cola companies paid only 37.50 paise per 1,000 litre of water extracted and sold their beverages at a much higher cost, the PIL said.
However, the HC noted that one of the petitioners, an advocate, had approached the court to settle his personal scores after falling out with South India Bottling Company, a co-packer of Coca-Cola, where he worked for three years.
The Madurai bench gave Coca-Cola and PepsiCo permission to draw water from the Thamirabarani for their bottling plants in Tirunelveli district for manufacture of soft drinks and packaged drinking water.
But, despite the clearance from the HC, news reports indicate that local retailers in several parts of the state had stopped selling beverages of the two cola majors.
Several people had also reported stood in knee-deep water in the river to show their disapproval to the HC order.