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Pepsi plant under Kerala scanner

March 18, 2010 11:08 IST

State Assembly recommends imposition of curbs on extraction of water by the plant.

Taking a serious note of the alleged exploitation of groundwater by Pepsi, a committee of the Kerala Assembly today recommended imposition of curbs on extraction of water by the multinational cola giant's plant at Pudussery in Palakkad district.

The report, tabled in the Assembly, however, did not ask for the closure of the plant, which provides employment to 3,500 people. The plant, situated over 53 acres, uses nearly 48.5 per cent of the ground water, according to the report.

Panel Chairman and state Water Resources Minister N K Premachandran said the key suggestion was to impose restrictions on water extraction by Pepsi at 234,000 litres per day from the current average of 700,000 litres a day.

On the issue whether the plant was causing water pollution, the report said the possibility could not be ruled out, but required detailed study.

The committee said industrial units using groundwater as the main raw material should be generally discouraged. The report comes at a time when a high-level panel is finalising its report on "socio-economic" damage allegedly caused by the Coca Cola plant at Plachimada, also in Palakkad district, which has been declared a drought-hit area. Premachandran said the high-level committee, headed by Additional Chief Secretary K Jayakumar, is expected to submit the report soon.

A PepsiCo spokesperson said: "We have just learnt about the report tabled in the Kerala Assembly and will need to go through it in detail before commenting on it."

"However, Palakkad is a model plant and is one of the most water efficient units in the PepsiCo system. Through innovative recycling and recharging techniques, the plant has been able to save about 200 million litres of water in the last four years and has also brought down the water usage by 60 per cent."

The spokesperson added that: "An independent study in 2009, by a renowned research institute, concluded that the impact of PepsiCo's Palakkad plant on the depleting ground water level in the area is insignificant. According to the report, PepsiCo is utilising only 0.7 per cent of the total annual water consumption in the area. It further states that the groundwater use by the PepsiCo plant is negligible in comparison to other water users."

Incidentally, rival Coca-Cola India, too, was charged with ground-water depletion in the past. In 2004, following investigation by the Central Ground Water Board in Kaladera, Rajasthan, the multinational was held responsible for depleting ground water level in the region. The company's plant was found to be extracting huge amounts of ground water causing ecological imbalances in the region.

BS Reporter