Kochi: The Kerala government has decided to set up a tribunal to recover Rs196 crore from US softdrink firm Coca-Cola Co. as compensation for environmental damage caused by its bottling plant at Plachimada in Palakkad district.
The decision by the state Cabinet was announced by chief minister V.S. Achuthanandan on Wednesday. It follows recommendations of a 14-member panel constituted by the government to look into charges of excessive water extraction and discharge of toxic elements like cadmium and lead by Coca-Cola. The law department has been entrusted with setting up the tribunal, he said.
The panel, headed by K. Jayakumar, additional chief secretary in the state government, had submitted its report late March. It had recommended that Coca-Cola pay Rs84 crore in compensation for agriculture loss, Rs20 crore towards livelihood loss, Rs30 crore towards health loss and Rs62 crore towards eco-restoration.
Coca-Cola operated in Plachimada between 2000 and 2004 and had to close after widespread protests. However, T. Balakrishnan, principal secretary (industries) in the state government, had on Monday suggested in a report to the state Cabinet that the government try to settle the issue amicably and take steps to allow Coca-Cola resume operations. Punitive action would send wrong signals and hurt the inflow of private capital into the state, he had said. The government rejected his report.