PRESS: Pepsi Plant Receives Police Protection to Bring in Water
For Immediate Release
May 13, 2015
Trichy, India: In an extraordinary development, PepsiCo’s bottling plant in India has sought ?and will receive ?police protection for water being brought to the disputed plant located in a water-stressed area.
Additionally, the Pepsi beverage manufacturing plant will also receive police protection for vehicles leaving the factory with finished Pepsi products.
The bottling plant is located in the village of Suriyur in the state of Tamil Nadu in south India, and has been the target of a community-led campaign to shut down the plant because of the growing water shortages for the residents in the area ever since the plant began operations in 2011.
The plant is run by an Indian company, L.A. Bottlers, and operates under a contract with the US-based PepsiCo to manufacture only Pepsi beverages in the plant.
The order for police protection from the Madras High Court ?which L.A. Bottlers sought on January 27, 2015 ?was delivered to the panchayat (village council) president on May 7 this year.
The community stepped up its protests against the bottling plant earlier this year, and 47 people were arrested on January 26, 2015, India’s Republic Day, during a protest in the town of Tiruchirapalli (Trichy), the district’s headquarters.
On January 29, local authorities responded to the growing protests by sealing the bore wells which provided the plant with groundwater to meet all its production needs, and the bottling plant has not operated since.
L.A. Bottlers has been in trouble since 2014 because it has been found to be operating without all the requisite licenses. The plant was running without the state Pollution Control Board’s permit after it expired on March 31, 2014.
The company also does not have the required land conversion permit which would allow it to operate as an industry in an agricultural area.
The company, however, has a case pending before the High Court where it is appealing to be allowed to operate.
Sign at Bottling Plant Entrance
Credit: India Resource Center
Local leaders have resolved not to ever allow the company to resume operations.
Farmers in the area have experienced sharp drops in groundwater levels, dried-up wells, extra expenditures to deepen existing wells and loss of income as a result of reduced crop production due to water shortages.
“Pepsi’s bottling plant has drained the water away from the farmers in the area, and there is a lot of suffering as a result,?said Vinothraj Seshan of Thanneer Iyakkam, a group at the forefront of the protests.
“It is outrageous that a private company like Pepsi will receive police protection to bring in water for profit while depriving the surrounding community of water, which is essential to sustain life. If anything, it is the public that deserves protection from such a destructive bottling company,?he continued.
The campaign is asking that New York based PepsiCo immediately cancel the contract with L.A. Bottlers.
“It is incumbent upon PepsiCo to ensure that all its franchisees and co-packers ?who earn profits for PepsiCo’s shareholders ?must also adhere to all the rules and regulations of the land. PepsiCo has failed in this regard, said Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center, an international campaigning group working with the communities in Suriyur to close the bottling plant.
“If you feel you need police protection to bring in water and to protect your products in a water-stressed area, clearly you are not welcome, and it is better to shut down and leave,?he continued.
The campaign has also approached various state government authorizes, including the state Pollution Control Board, to reject the licenses for the Pepsi manufacturing plant in Suriyur because of the serious water shortages in the area.
To assuage the growing criticism of beverage companies in India operating in water stressed areas, PepsiCo has made outrageous claims that it has a “positive water balance?in India, a claim strongly disputed by the India Resource Center because the claim is unfounded after scrutiny.
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Protest at Bottling Plant
Credit: E. Balaji, The Hindu
Vinothraj Seshan, Thanneer Iyakkam +91 95001 89319
Amit Srivastava, India Resource Center +91 98103 46161
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