Kerala passes law on tribunal to secure compensation for victims of bottling plant
JUST before the Kerala Assembly was dissolved for elections, the state’s Left Democratic Front government passed a law to secure compensation for people affected by Coca-Cola’s bottling operations at Plachimada in Palakkad district.
The law, passed unopposed on February 24, provides for a three-member tribunal which will adjudicate on claims for compensating losses resulting from Coca-Cola’s operations, which include groundwater pollution and depletion, loss of agricultural land, loss of jobs and health problems. The tribunal will have powers equal to that of a civil court and can issue summons and examine witnesses.
The Coca-Cola plant was closed in March 2004 following a high court order and protests by Plachimada residents whose wells and ponds went dry. Overextraction of groundwater by the beverage company, Hindustan Coca- Cola Beverage Private Limited, had caused severe environmental and soil degradation. The bottling plant’s effluents contaminated water in Perumatty and Pattanchery gram panchayats of Plachimada, leading to skin ailments, breathing problems and debility.
“The Act reflects the will of the people and it has to be respected. Coca-Cola should now pay the damages voluntarily as part of its social responsibility,” said R Ajayan of the citizens’ front, Plachimada Solidarity Committee.
Lesson for polluters
The Plachimada Coca-Cola Victims Relief and Compensation Claims Special Tribunal Act is a historic legislation that “sets a precedence for companies that think depletion of natural resources is alright,” said S Faizi, environmentalist and member of the Plachimada high-powered committee. The Act is based on the recommendations of the committee, which submitted its report in March last year, holding Coca-Cola responsible for causing pollution and water depletion in Plachimada.
We are a voice to you; you have been a support to us. Together we build journalism that is independent, credible and fearless. You can further help us by making a donation. This will mean a lot for our ability to bring you news, perspectives and analysis from the ground so that we can make change together.
Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.