Plachimada Coke plant gets 90-day conditional licence

Thiruvananthapuram, Jan 5 | Updated: Jan 6 2006, 05:50am hrs
Just as Coca-Cola is toying with a strategy to transplant its Plachimada factory to another village in Kerala, which houses the Pepsi factory, Perumatty village council has cleared a provisional working licence for the Plachimada plant. The licence is valid for only 90 days and is conditional.

The bottling plant in Plachimada, one of Coke's largest plants in India, had been closed for the last 20 months. Charged of water-depletion in the factory neighbourhood and spotted with more than permissible limits of toxic chemicals in solid sludge disposed from the factory, Coke had to grind its operations to a halt.

The temporary licence, that the newly-elect village council allowed on Thursday, is subject to caveats. To avail it, the company needs to come up with satisfactory solutions for 17 queries posed by the council. This also includes producing seven certificates, including the licence by Kerala State Pollution Control Board.

The company has been given 15-days time to come up with certificates and answers, a spokesman of the village council said, after the administrative council meeting. The meeting had expressed deep concern over the acute shortage of drinking water in the area. The council has also urged the company to desist from drawing ground water from the area.

The questions of Perumatty's new council are not different from those raised by the previously elected body. While Kerala government lab had found over twice the permitted limit of toxic metals in the factory sludge, State Pollution Control Board had raised apprehensions on the process that created toxic wastes amid the production of a beverage for consumption.

The village council's move is in response to a recent high court order asking it to consider renewal of licence to the Plachimada plant. The company had submitted fresh application. In June 2005, when Perumatty Panchayat had cancelled the operating licence in March 2005, Hindustan Coca Cola Beverages had approached the court. It was in March 2000 that the company had started operations in Kerala.