Don’t let Coca-Cola and Pepsi set up bottling plants unless they have a roadmap to replenish drinking water availability

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Updated: March 3, 2017 3:49:58 PM

The latest development in Tamil Nadu today is that the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court has dismissed two PILs against the supply of Thamirabarani water to Pepsi and Coca-Cola.

This mass sentiment against MNC beverage brand is not new to the state. (Reuters)

The latest development in Tamil Nadu today is that the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court has dismissed two PILs against the supply of Thamirabarani water to Pepsi and Coca-Cola. Are you wondering what the PILs against Pepsi and Coca-Cola are all about? Should you be happy or concerned about this development? Here’s a quick reference:

In the aftermath of the Jallikattu protest, protesters and traders are pitching for a ban on Pepsi and Coca-Cola and they are raising tough questions: “Why should we allow MNCs to exploit our state’s water resources at throw-away prices so that they can get us to buy branded beverages that harm our body and our environment?”

Clearly, the traders in Tamil Nadu are determined to boycott Coke and Pepsi. During the Jallikkattu protests, the protesters had stated that they do not want to drink any soft drink that is manufactured in the US. This mass sentiment against MNC beverage brand is not new to the state. Remember, two years ago, a Coca-Cola bottling plant was initially planned in Erode district but had to be canceled following a huge mass agitation.

Poorva Joshipura,CEO, PETA India told FE Online, ” Neither of these corporations are related to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India or the totally separate entity, PETA in the US, a fact that jallikattu demonstrators either fail or refuse to grasp. Attempting to draw a link between an animal protection group and these corporations is ridiculous and has no grounding in truth.

Should agitators in Tamil Nadu be concerned about ethics and health, we urge them to join PETA India in peacefully calling for a boycott of all fish, chicken and other meat shops, or is the honest fact that they really like to see animals tortured, as they are during jallikattu, after all?”

Two major traders associations in Tamil Nadu have already sent out their verdict, loud and clear – Say no to Coke and Pepsi – boycott these brands! The traders are pitching for local beverage brands like Kalimark’s Bovonto, Amrutanjan’s Fruitnik as well as Parle’s Frooti.

Also Read: Why students are at the forefront of the Jallikattu movement at Marina Beach?

Most shopkeepers across the state are refusing to accept fresh stocks of Coke and Pepsi but the truth is that local products may not be able to fill in for Coke and Pepsi, which reportedly account for 90% of the market and as products, they enjoy much popularity with the young crowd.

A critical point is that many consumers are divided and not fully informed about the issue and its implications on health and environment. Not every consumer wants to be told what is good for health – they assume they know what is best for themselves – but where does that assumption spring from – data? Hardly possible, given that most studies on the consumption of these beverages point clearly to the consequences on health and environment.

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In November 2016, the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court had issued an interim stay on the water supply being given to Pepsico’s water purification plant for its Aquafina brand and Coca-Cola’s bottling plant in Tirunelveli district. Reason? Brace yourself for some hard facts and a dose of grim reality!

The water for the Coca-Cola and Pepsi plants would have been taken from the Thamirabarani river – which serves as a lifeline for the farmers in the region who need water for paddy irrigation. The protesting farmers were lathi-charged by the police and the plants became operational!

Also Read: What Kamal Haasan meant when he spoke on the ban on jallikattu

This intensified the battle for justice – it took a lawyer from Tirunelveli to move the court on this issue. He raised serious contentions that every Indian should consider:

1. When the drinking needs of people are barely met, how can MNC bottling plants be allowed to get away with more water at the cost of the farmer’s access to water for irrigation?

2. The water that is being diverted to Pepsico and Coca-Cola were being allotted at throwaway prices – benefiting the MNCs and exploiting precious river water that farmers of the region needed.

3. Coca-Cola and Pepsi Co were supposed to provide jobs to the people in the region and ensure drinking water supply during the years of drought but they did not honor their side of the agreement.

In Kerala’s Palakkad, a similar controversy was triggered and Coca-Cola was forced to shut down in 2004 as people protested over the depletion of groundwater and dumping of toxic effluents. The Kerala State Pollution Control Board confirmed in its report that there were dangerous levels of cadmium found in the sludge!

Also Read: Kerala to lead by example with environment-friendly rituals

The tough fight by Tamil Nadu’s traders has just begun – this may become a full-fledged agitation for a healthy and sustainable environment. Water is becoming increasingly scarce and the fact is that we don’t have enough drinking water available across most of our villages or cities. If bottling plants of Coca-Cola and Pepsi use our ground water and river water resources at throwaway prices, what will our farmers do for irrigation?

Don’t let Coca-Cola and Pepsi set up bottling plants unless they can come up with a time-bound roadmap to replenish drinking water availability.

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