Coca-Cola Hit by Pollution Claim in India

A state panel said that the Palakkad bottling factory, which was closed in 2005, damaged the local environment by polluting groundwater and dumping solid waste.

Coca-Cola contaminated water and polluted the environment at a south Indian bottling plant and should pay $47 million in compensation, local authorities said on March 22.

The government in Communist-run Kerala state said it had accepted the findings of a panel that investigated the soft drinks giant and recommended a fine of 2.16 billion rupees.

Coca-Cola denied all the allegations.

The state panel said that the Palakkad bottling factory, which was closed in 2005 after protests from activists and residents, damaged the local environment by polluting groundwater and dumping solid waste.

The compensation claim covered agricultural losses, water pollution and unspecified health damage between 1999 and 2004.

"Several studies were conducted and they revealed that the Coca-Cola plant has contaminated the water and soil of the area. So the company must pay for it," N.K. Premachandran, the state minister for water, said.

Coca-Cola dismissed the panel's findings, saying that any claim must be taken to the courts. It said numerous investigations by the state government and others had cleared the company of any wrong-doing.

"Based on scientific evaluation, our Palakkad plant operations have not been shown to be the cause of local watershed issues," it said in a statement.

"It is unfortunate 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."

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010

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