Kerala passes Bill, asks Coca-Cola to pay R216 crore to Plachimada victims

Written by M Sarita Varma | Thiruvananthapuram | Updated: Feb 25 2011, 05:46am hrs
The LDF government in Kerala has sharpened its legal teeth on Coca-Cola by ordering the company to cough up R216 crore as compensation for losses caused by its plant at Plachimada to people in the area. On Thursday, the final day of the present Assembly session, the government rushed through a Bill to enact a special tribunal to realise the penalty.

The Bill, titled Plachimada Coca-Cola Victims' Relief and Compensation Claims Special Tribunal-2011, will empower the government to claim compensation from the company on the basis of the polluter pays principle, NK Premachandran, state water resources minister, who piloted the Bill, told FE.

The Bill was based on the recommendations of a high-power committee, headed additional chief secretary K Jayakumar , which found that a loss of R216.16 crore had been caused by HCCB at Plachimada village in Palakkad district. According to the Bill, the plant had caused environmental and soil degradation and water contamination due to over-extraction of ground water. The plants functioning had led to drinking water scarcity and decline in agriculture due to disposal of sludge which contained metals like cadmium, lead and chromium, it said. The Bill said the sludge disposal also affected the health of people causing skin ailments, breathing problems and other disabilities. The three-member special tribunal, created through the Bill, will have powers to consider petitions for compensation or restitution of property damaged against the company, arising out of grievances due to violation of laws relating to environment, air and water pollution.