Kerala panel wants Coca Cola to pay for water damage

Last Updated: Thu, Mar 18, 2010 14:00 hrs

Beverage giant Coca Cola's bottling plant in Perumatty in Palakkad district has led to depletion of water resources, a Kerala assembly panel said Thursday and recommended that the multinational company pay compensation to the villagers.

Addressing reporters at the assembly complex, V. Surendran Pillai, chairman of the assembly's Petitions Committee, said the committee members visited Perumatty and found that the bottling plant has led to a decline in the water table. The plant was shut down in 2004 following sustained campaign by the villagers.

'We have recommended that in Palakkad district authorities should carefully look into proposals whenever licences are given to any new industry that uses water as a raw material. The government should come out with an industrial irrigation project for the benefit of the existing commercial industries. Moreover, we have asked for a speedy completion of a drinking water scheme at the Perumatty village council,' said Pillai.

The Coca Cola plant at Plachimada in Perumatty was set up in 1999. The sanction for the company to begin operations was given by the then Left Front government led by E.K. Nayanar.

The assembly committee report comes at a time when an expert panel headed by Additional Chief Secretary K. Jayakumar, constituted to assess the damages caused to the environment at Perumatty due to the bottling plant, is expected to submit its report any time now.

'We understand that the expert panel report is going to be submitted any time. We expect the government to do the needful once that report is submitted,' added Pillai.

The expert panel visited the surrounding areas of the plant on four occasions and held detailed talks with the villagers, but the soft drink giant did not accept the decision to form the expert panel and failed to appear before the panel.

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