The battle over scare water supplies has hit the corporate world as the citizens of Plachimada, an Indian village of about 30,000 inhabitants, denied the local Coca-Cola plant access to its groundwater to protect farmers in the area who were suffering from a lack of water.
This month, the high court of the state of Kerala will rule whether the village exceeded its authority in doing so. The case is being watched closely by other states where Coca-Cola plants are being blamed for using up badly needed water. In January protesters demonstrated against 87 Coke and Pepsi plants in India.
India has suffered from three years of drought combined with the growing demands of a rapidly expanding urban society. Water tables are dropping rapidly, a cause for major concern.
In Plachimada, the Coke plant uses deep-bore wells during the summer months to extract at least 130,000 gallons of water a day. Environmental activists put the figure three times as high. Furthermore, environmental activists claim that waste from the plant has leached into the soil, contaminating drinking water.
Legal experts say that the law is on the villagers' side.
"When it comes to local resources, the Constitution is clear that local people are the key stakeholders," said K.C. Sivaramakrishnan of the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi. "That's the guarantee the Kerala courts have so far upheld."
Vanada Shiva, a New Delhi activist in the campaign against Coke claims that victory in Plachimada will have repercussions throughout India. "If they win, the fight will be replicated across India," she said.