ATTRIBUTING the protest against the soft drink bottling unit under construction at the SIPCOT Industrial Growth Centre at Gangaikondan to the "unfounded fears of a section of the people over the reported depletion of groundwater resources and other consequences of the Plachimada plant in Kerala", one of the Directors of the Chennai-based South India Bottling Company (P) Limited (SIBCL), S.V. Sunilkumar, said the agitation was politically motivated. "Gangaikondan is different from Plachimada," he told Frontline.
At Plachimada, where Hindusthan Coca-Cola Beverages Ltd., the Indian subsidiary of the transnational soft drink major Coca-Cola, was given only licence to operate but had to make its own arrangements for water and other requirements, Sunilkumar said. At Gangaikondan, SIBCL would have the bottling plant in the State government-run industrial growth centre that will provide all infrastructure facilities and water. "So, we are in a designated place," he said. Again, the complaint at Plachimada was that the unit exploited groundwater as a result of which there was depletion of water resources. In the case of Gangaikondan, Sunilkumar said, there could be no room for such complaint, because SIPCOT itself would supply water from the Thamiraparani, which is allotted to the entire growth centre. The SIPCOT allotment order stipulates that the unit should not use groundwater for its requirements.
Another claim made by the SIBCL director was that the unit would use state-of-the-art technology, which was developed after the Plachimada unit was launched five years ago. Further, he said, while Coca-Cola directly owned the Plachimada unit, SIBCL was an Indian private company promoted by S.V. Subrahmanyam, whose other business interests included export and import of chemicals and Information Technology. SIBCL would serve as the co-packers of Coca-Cola.
Yet another point Sunilkumar highlighted was that while the Kerala government was undecided on the future of the unit in that State, the SIBCL plant had the approval of the Government of Tamil Nadu and its Pollution Control Board, whose stipulations, he said, the company had complied with.
Sunilkumar said the unit would have two production lines - one for fruit juice-based beverages and the other for carbonated soft drinks brand named Coca-Cola, Fanta and Sprite. In the case of fruit juice-based beverages the plant would have a production capacity of 400 bottles per minute (BPM) and in respect of carbonated drinks it would be 600 returnable glass bottles per minute (RGBM).
The plant would spend roughly 10 per cent of its total cost of Rs.30 crores on pollution control and effluent disposal devices, Sunilkumar said. Using latest technology the unit would ensure zero effluent discharge. He said the company would comply with all the conditions laid down by the government and its agencies.