Coca-Cola Compensation Committee Meets
The Hindu
July 11, 2009

--Committee may recommend institutional mechanism to determine damages

--Panel decides to hold public hearings

--Field visits planned to assess damage

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: A high-level committee, constituted by the government to determine the extent and nature of loss resulting from the Coca-Cola plant at Plachimada in Palakkad district, proposes to recommend the establishment of an institutional mechanism to receive claims from people for compensation and make the company liable to pay it.

This was among the several suggestions put forward at the first meeting of the committee, chaired by Additional Chief Secretary K. Jayakumar here on Friday.

The committee decided to hold public hearings and elicit the views of people’s representatives, the local panchayat and non-governmental organisations in August as part of a broad consultation process. The company’s views on the issue too would be sought.

The committee will make field visits and assess the geographical extent of the damage caused by the company’s operations. It will also do a critical evaluation of the studies done on the impact of the operations of the Coca-Cola plant and collect additional data and information from official agencies and members of the public.

The committee will study the extent of damage caused to agriculture, animal husbandry and environment. It will also look into the loss of livelihood, pollution and depletion of water sources and the health effects of pollution and assess the level and quantum of damage. Losses to individuals and the costs for reversal of ecological damage will be evaluated.

Steps for awareness

Besides, steps will be taken to create awareness among the people of the losses and empower them to claim compensation. The committee proposes to submit its report by October. As part of the preparation of its report, workshops attended by experts in relevant fields will be organised and the proceedings will be appended to the report. The committee have public health worker C.R. Soman, environmental expert S. Faizi, and former District and Sessions Judge T. K. Raman as members besides heads of government departments and agencies.

Meanwhile, the Adivasi Samrakshana Sanghom and the Plachimada Struggle Solidarity Committee are demanding that a statutory authority be set up to deal with the claims. Their leaders have stated in a memorandum to committee members that a tribunal could be set up under the National Environmental Tribunal Act. They have claimed that compensation is payable for pollution of water, depletion of groundwater due to over-extraction and pollution of soil, including costs of remediation.

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