PALAKKAD: The ever soaring mercury level has dried up many a well. The temperature in Malampuzha in Kerala rose to unprecedented heights to touch 41.9 degrees, the highest in the state since 1987. People run behind tanker lorries to collect water.

In fact, misery is this summer’s theme. For the commoners, that is. The corporates, including a soft drink major and a brewery unit, exist in a parallel universe. At a time when villagers crave for a drop of water, they merrily guzzle underground water depleting the water table. Several firms like Pepsico, United Breweries, Amrut Distilleries, United Spirits and Empee Distilleries, which dot the Kanjikode landscape, consume lakhs of litres of water everyday. Thomas Scaria, district officer of the Groundwater Department, shared the data collected by the department in the wake of a High Court direction asking Pepsi to pump out only six lakh litres per day

As per the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition reading recommended by the HC and the Assembly Subjects Committee, Pepsi pumped out 5.76 lakh litres per day in January, 5.25 lakh litres per day in February and 5.97 lakh litres per day in March. “The Kerala HC had in 2007 annulled an order of the panchayat cancelling the licence of the bottling unit in Kanjikode as it was using potable water sources. The court held that the panchayat did not have the powers to issue or cancel licences to industries in special industrial areas,” Pudussery panchayat president Unnikrishnan said.

However, the court observed that the panchayat’s concern about water shortage should not be ignored as right to life under Article 21 of the Constitution implies the right to food and water. In the wake of the HC verdict, the state government had constituted an expert committee to study the impact of groundwater extraction in and around Pepsi’s unit.

The committee recommended that Pepsi’s ground water utilisation should be restricted to 2.34 lakh litres per day.