India: 13 years after shut down of bottling plant in Kerala, villagers allege they don't have clean drinking water, waiting for justice for effects of pollution

In March 2000, Coca Cola, under its Indian subsidiary Hindustan Coca Cola Beverages Private Limited (HCCBPL), commenced operations at its bottling plant at Plachimada, in the southern state of Kerala. Over the next few years, the area surrounding the plant allegedly began to feel the plant’s hazardous effects, as groundwater was contaminated and toxic waste released. Protests by the people of Plachimada, interest groups, and NGOs lead to the shutdown of operations at the plant. 13 years later, village claims that there has been no compensation for the ecological, social and environmental losses suffered by them, "We haven't yet got clean drinking water, nor justice we sought". Business & Human Rights Resource Centre invited Coca-Cola to respond, response included. 

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Company response
24 April 2016

Coca-Cola statement re compensation

Author: Coca-Cola

The Hindustan Coca-Cola Plant at Kerala has been non-operational since 2004. The Company halted operations at the Plant, of its own volition, despite having all licenses and permissions to operate the Plant, at that time. In spite of halting operations, the Plant continued to distribute drinking water to surrounding villages for more than 4 years after it discontinued operations. The plant distributed approximately 60,000 liters of purified drinking water free of cost every day through dedicated tankers to villages within the Perumatty Panchayat, despite there being no obligation to do so. Several independent scientific studies have been carried out over the last decade, have substantiated that there were no truths in the allegations made against the Plant operations at Kerala. The studies include those that were conducted by regulatory bodies of the Govt of Kerala itself. As regards the claims of compensation, a Committee set up by the Kerala Government did issue a report alleging our plant had violated environmental laws. The Committee invited claims of compensation that added up to $35 million. We categorically deny each allegation in the Committee's report. They lack factual and legal merit. We also object to the process, as the Committee arrived at its assumptions without any scientific proof and did not give us an opportunity to present the relevant facts, rebut their allegations or present our side of the story. In fact, the Solicitor General of India and the Ministry of Home Affairs, Govt of India, have said that the State Government lacks legislative competence and that the Bill contradicted existing laws. 

Article
21 March 2016

Plachimada - Still waiting for justice and compensation

Author: Beena Govind, Mathrubhumi

The protesters are still around, the fire is still alive but the protest pandal in front of the closed-down company gates of Coca Cola is empty...The people who led the protests from the front are still around...will tell one thing in common - "We haven't yet got clean drinking water, nor justice we sought"...to date there has been no compensation for the ecological, social and environmental losses suffered by the villagers...The company shut down in 2003 but not a penny has been paid in compensation to the people who suffered the damage at the hands of the corporate. ......The most recent setback was in February 2016 when the President's office sent the bill back refusing assent on unspecified reasons...The protesters are now left in a lurch wondering who their real opponent is- the company or their own elected governments.

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Article
14 March 2016

High time Plachimada Bill got Presidential consent

Author: Vandana Shiva, Mathrubhumi

It is a tragedy that even after five years this important Bill has not got Presidential assent. Since the state has a duty to protect the Right to Life of citizens under Article 1 of the Constitution, Kerala should go ahead and implement the Bill...Since the state has a duty to protect the Right to Life of citizens under Article 1 of the Constitution, Kerala should go ahead and implement the Bill...There is a tendency, under the pressure of giant corporations like Coca-Cola and Monsanto to deregulate corporate activities...In the case of Coca-Cola, corporate freedom translates into theft of water, its pollution with heavy metals, disease, longer walks by women in search for clean drinking water. 

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Article
6 February 2016

A lost battle: Plachimada’s victims may never get Coke’s compensation

Author: KPM Basheer, Hindu

Bringing relief to Coca Cola and turning to nought the long agitation by residents of the Plachimada, a village in Kerala’s Palakkad district, the Plachimada Tribunal Bill has failed to win the President’s assent...The Rashtrapati Bhavan on February 1 returned the Plachimada Coca Cola Victims Relief and Compensation Claims Special Tribunal Bill 2011 – which was unanimously passed by the Kerala Assembly five years ago – to the Ministry of Home Affairs...Hindustan Coca Cola Beverages, the Indian subsidiary of the multinational, has thus been spared of paying compensation to the nearly 1,000 Dalit and Adivasi families from Palakkad’s Perumatty and Pattancherry gram panchayats, the victims of the hazardous effects of its huge bottling plant at Plachimada.

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Article
9 July 2014

Coca-Cola Forced To Shut Bottling Plant in India

Author: Fatima Hansia, CorpWatch Blog

Coca-Cola…has been ordered to shut down its bottling plant in Varanasi, India following local complaints that the company was drawing excessive amounts of groundwater. After an investigation, government authorities ruled that the company had violated its operating license...Activists hailed the victory…This is a great victory and a welcome confirmation that local communities can successfully take on big, powerful businesses,” Nandlal Master, an activist from Lok Samiti, told the India Resource Center, an activist group...This is not the first time that the company has been in trouble in India for unsustainable water extraction practices. In 2004 a bottling plant in Plachimada, Kerala, was closed for excessive water consumption. 

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Item
31 March 2014

Coca-Cola statement about Varanasi Plant

Author: Coca-Cola

The Hindustan Coca-Cola Plant (HCCB) at Mehdiganj was wrongfully shut down by UPPCB and consequently HCCB moved the Hon'ble National Green Tribunal (NGT) challenging the order of UPPCB. Hon'ble NGT stayed the Order and gave permission to operate the plant with its Returnable Glass Bottle (RGB) line, which has been operating uninterruptedly for more than 15 year with all permissions and approvals. The bottling plant has improved its water usage ratio by 47% in the last 12 years leading to reduction in water consumption by 66%.

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Article
10 July 2011

Indians force Coca-Cola bottling facility in Plachimada to shut down, 2001-2006

Author: Nathalie Schils in Global non-violent action database

IIn 1998, Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Pvt Ltd, a subsidiary of the multinational beverage company, was granted a license to operate a bottling plant in Plachimada, a small village in the state of Kerala in southern India. Within two years of the plant's opening in 2000, indigenous people living near the plant, known as the Adivasi people, began protesting the bottling plant's presence in their community....The campaign was successful in closing the plant, and in 2011 Coca-Cola was declared financially liable up to $48 million dollars for damages and clean up from operation of the Plachimada plant. However, the Plachimada plant has been used since its closure to make non-cola products and it's unclear if this is having the same environmentally-devastating impact seen when Coca-Cola was operating the plant.

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Article
25 April 2010

Plachimada activists vow to keep Coca-Cola plant shut

Author: Hindu

 Activists who have successfully campaigned for the closure of a Coca-Cola plant at Plachimada have expressed anger and dismay over the statement made by Muhtar Kent, chief executive officer of the company, at its recent annual shareholders meeting in Atlanta, U.S., that it “could open the Plachimada plant any time.”..leaders of the Janata Dal (Secular) faction that rules the Perumatty grama panchayat which cancelled the licence of the Plachimada plant resulting in its closure in 2004 said they would not allow the reopening, as it would invite disaster to the whole of Palakkad district.

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Article
22 April 2010

Coca-Cola's response disappoints Plachimada activists

Author: Narayan Lakshman, Hindu

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