Kochi: The Kerala government will form an expert panel to study demands for compensation by residents of Plachimada village in Palakkad district for the damage done by pollution allegedly caused by a Coca-Cola Co. plant, the state’s minister for water resources N.K. Premachandran said.

Panel talk: N.K. Premachandran, Kerala minister for water resources.

KGWA recommended the formation of an expert committee as the issues went beyond groundwater extraction.

The panel will look into these issues before deciding on the compensation demand, Premachandran said.

The minister said there was need for a coordinated effort by experts to assess the damage, if any, caused by the plant.

He told Mint on Wednesday that he was yet to receive a copy of the KGWA report.

The decision to constitute the expert committee comes as a campaign against operations of Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Pvt. Ltd in Kerala enters its sixth year. The Kerala State Pollution Control Board had in March 2004 ordered the company to shut down its bottling unit at Plachimada following protests by locals.

The plant’s total water consumption was 600,000 litres a day during the peak season (January-May) and 350,000 litres during the off-peak season (June-December). The company had to dig borewells after a government promise of stream water never materialized.

R. Ajayan, convener of the Plachimada Solidarity Committee, which along with the Plachimada Adivasi Samrakshana Sangham, has been spearheading the agitation against the company, said the government’s decision to form the expert panel was a victory for them.

“There is the need for an expert committee to look into the physical, environmental and social damage caused," he said.