Even as the online campaign against Tamil Nadu government’s approval to PepsiCo to use several lakh litres of water from the river Tamirabharani continues, the movement has started receiving more support on the ground at Gangaikondan, with several smaller political parties stepping in to protest against the government and the multinationals.
The ‘Pepsi-Coke Ethirppu Kuzhu’ or the committee to oppose Pepsi-Coke is however a joint effort against both the cola-giants and not just PepsiCo. You can read our story on the campaign and how the river, the lifeline to farmers and residents in the region, will be affected by the cola-plants here – ‘Protests against Pepsi’s new plant in Tamil Nadu are turning loud and bloody - and no one cares’.
The committee that has been formed is a group of several political parties, activists and environmentalists who have come together to petition the state government to stop allowing multinationals to take massive amounts of water from the river. Several political parties’ local units like those of the DMDK and constituents of the People’s Welfare Font have petitioned the District Revenue Officer in Tirunelveli against the project.
Speaking to The News Minute, Mugilan, one of the members of the movement said, "We are creating awareness among the people in various villages and we are going to make this a people's movement against the project. We have support from almost all political parties and groups except the AIADMK."
The Tamil Nadu government however has defended the project. TNIE reports,
When contacted, a senior government officer denied these charges, maintaining that the plant was given a go ahead only after looking into all aspects. “The PWD, along with other departments including TWAD and revenue department had given technical opinion that taking 3 million gallon water from Thamirabarani to Gangaikondan SIPCOT would not affect agriculture and drinking water needs.
“But now only 0.5 million gallon water is being drawn from the river to the SIPOCT. Also, only one lakh litres of water is being given to the plant now,” the official told Express. The protests would only cause hurdles for economic and industrial development of the district, which would affect employment opportunities, he added.
Some water experts however don’t agree with the assessment.
“The government has to tell us based on what they have arrived at such a conclusion. They have to look at the data of water availability and usage for the entire year, and consider a situation of drought also. Keeping such factors in mind, I don’t agree that drawing out such huge amounts of water from the river can be considered safe,” says Dr. Arunachalam, a water-resources expert and former Head of the Department of Environment at Manonmaniam Sundaranar University in Tirunelveli.