State Committee in India: Coca-Cola Should Pay At Least $47 Million in Environmental Damages
A committee established by the state government of Kerala in India
has recommended that Coca-Cola be held liable for approximately $47
million for alleged mismanagement of water resources at the company's
bottling operations in the village of Plachimada.
Plachimada was the site of vociferous protests challenging Coca-Cola's
use of water. The Coca-Cola bottling plant in Plachimada has been
closed since 2004, but reverberations from the strife there continue
to surface. Activists have demanded compensation from Coca-Cola for
The committee, whose recommendations are not legally binding, said
there was "compelling evidence" that Coca-Cola's bottler had depleted
water resources and contaminated the water and soil. It called on
the state government to implement the recommendations.
Coca-Cola strongly disputed the recommendations, maintaining that
there has not been a ruling that indicates a causal relationship between
the bottling operations and water depletion in Plachimada. The company
admits that it did not state its case effectively among Plachimada
residents earlier this decade. But it said its bottling operations
drew from a deeper aquifer than the community typically used.
"Any government committee or panel reviewing claims should first determine
through a process of law whether any damage was caused to the residents,"
bottler Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages said in a statement. "And second,
if such damage was caused, who was responsible. ... Based on scientific
evaluation, our Palakkad plant operations have not been shown to be
the cause of local watershed issues."
"It is unfortunate," the bottler said, "that the committee in Kerala
was appointed on the unproven assumption that damage was caused, and
that it was caused by Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages."
In an interview with the AJC earlier this year, Coca-Cola CEO Muhtar
Kent said the company had reduced its water consumption in India,
put solid local management in place and is working closely with Indian
governments. It has started several hundred water projects in India,
"We can again be part of the solutions," he said.
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