Coca Cola Legally Liable for pollution
Company to face compensation claims in India.
A New law passed in Kerala will allow those affected by Coca Cola bottling operations to seek compensation from the soft-drinks giant.
In a major development, the state legislature of Kerala recently passed legislation allowing individuals from the Plachimada to seek financial compensation from the company. This follows a community led campaign against environmental damage and severe water shortages caused by the plant which has remained closed since 2004.
“This is a landmark moment for the people of Kerala and India,” said R. Ajayan of the Plachimada Solidarity Committee which has been actively involved in the campaign since its inception.“The passage of the bill means that people’s will in Kerala has now become law of the land,”
The legislation sets up a tribunal with the power to adjudicate on matters related to claims of compensation as a result of Coca-Cola’s hazardous operations. The adoption of the legislation by the Kerala state legislature legally binds Coca-Cola to adhere to the directives of the tribunal.
The legislation is based on the recommendations of a High Power Committee which published a report on March 22, 2010. the report argued that over extraction of ground water caused mass scarcity of drinking water in the area, and sludge misleadingly passed on to farmers as fertiliser caused of serious degradation to the soil, and contamination to the ground water.
“The Committee has come to the conclusion that the Company is responsible for these damages and it is obligatory that they pay the compensation to the affected people for the agricultural losses, health problems, loss of wages, loss of educational opportunities, and the pollution caused to the water resources,” added the report.
Using the “polluter pays principle,” the High Power Committee had recommended that Coca-Cola be held liable for Indian Rupees 216 (US$ 48 million) for damages caused as a result of the company's operations in the southern Kerala.
Two ongoing community campaigns in Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh who are also seeking closure of local Coca-Cola bottling plants were buoyed by the news.
However, Coca-Cola's Indian subsidiary - Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages (HCCB) – still rejects the charges. In a statement, the HCCB said it was "disappointed" with the new legislation, and that "this bill is devoid of facts, scientific data or any input from or consideration given to HCCB."
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