Thiruvananthapuram: In the view of intense drought that has gripped all fourteen districts of Kerala, including Palakkad, the state government has planned to further restrict the use of groundwater by soft drink company Pepsico.
“If need be, we might even go to the extent of asking them to shut down operations temporarily,” water resources minister Mathew T Thomas said in the Assembly in response to a submission made by CPM veteran V S Achuthanandan.
The latest figures of water use show that the company extracts 1.5 lakh litres of groundwater daily, the minister said. In 2015, it was 5.5 lakh litres, and before that the daily extraction was 6.5 lakh litres.
“The company was forced to bring down extraction after the State Disaster Management Authority issued an order recently, saying that companies using water as a raw material should reduce their groundwater intake by 75 percent,” Mr Thomas said.
Besides, the company was also told to stop operating six of its seven bore wells. Pepsico is yet to comply with this order and has gone to court against it.
The minister said the over-exploitation of underground water by Pepsico had already taken its toll. “The six domestic wells near the plant that are being constantly monitored have shown a marked decline in water level,” the minister said. The water level in these wells has dropped by 1.7 to 1.86 metres over the years.
“This is a highly dangerous situation,” the minister said, adding “we have no choice but to force the company to drastically reduce their groundwater exploitation”.
In 2016, the Assembly sub-committee constituted to look into the issue had recommended that the company should reduce groundwater extraction to a maximum of 2.34 lakh litres at a time when the company was drawing around 5 lakh litres and more.