Sunday, March 06, 2005

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.


At 12:44 AM, Blogger lars said...

Good luck to them. It is too bad they couldn't find a win-win solution. A few small dams could help store water or recharge local aquifers.
Without this, their water problems are likely to continue even after the plant is closed. The water use of the village and surrounding farming area is almost certainly much larger than the usage of the plant. (city of 100,000 in US uses 35+ million gallons a day in summer so 1+ million gallons isn't unreasonable)

At 2:07 PM, Blogger Tim said...

You're right that the water usage by Coke is not a critical factor in the overall situation. Unfortunately, there is no win-win situation--especially if the present drought continues. There are too many Indians and not enough water. This is a classic overshoot.

Water worries me more than oil, I think.


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