Coca-Cola’s exit: the end of a long-drawn battle
The statement by the Hindustan Coca-Cola Ltd management in the Supreme Court that it did not intend to reopen the factory at Plachimada in the district brings to an end a long-drawn battle between the panchayat, environmentalists and the beverages giant.
PALAKKAD: The statement by the Hindustan Coca-Cola Ltd management in the Supreme Court that it did not intend to reopen the factory at Plachimada in the district brings to an end a long-drawn battle between the panchayat, environmentalists and the beverages giant.
The Coca-Cola on Thursday did not question the decision of the Perumatty panchayat to deny permission for the factory to operate. As a result, all the petitions in this regard were dismissed. The court also reportedly did not take any decision as to whether a local body had the right to cancel the licence for the factory. It was in March 2000 that Coca-Cola under its India subsidiary Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Pvt Ltd commenced operations at Plachimada.
Subsequently, anti-Cola activists began an agitation demanding that the company end over-exploitation of groundwater. The sludge released by the factory and distributed to local farmers was found to be toxic in nature at the tests conducted in the UK. It was in 1998 the company purchased 34.4 acres of land in Plachimada to set up a plant. On January 25, 2000, the Perumatty panchayat gave permission to set up the factory and the unit commenced production in March 2000.
There were six borewells and two open ponds. Within six months, agitation began as locals couldn’t get water and the wells got contaminated. On February 16, 2011, the Cabinet approved a draft Bill, which was passed shortly thereafter in the legislative Assembly, to form a tribunal to secure compensation and relief for the environmental degradation caused by the company at Plachimada.
The bill was prepared on the basis of the recommendations of a high-powered committee headed by former Chief Secretary K Jayakumar. The committee was set up to study the issue, which had estimated the people in the area had suffered a loss to the tune of `216 crore owing to pollution and water shortage caused by the operation of the plant. However, the Bill was returned by the Union Home Ministry stating the state government did not have powers to deal with the compensation aspect.