Coca Cola plant in Plachimada, Kerala, India

Bottling plant shut down due to drought and pollution, after year-long people's protests and their wells being contaminated and dried up. What justice can be paid after such ecological disruption?


Description
Plachimada is a little hamlet in Palakkad District, which is known as the ‘rice bowl of Kerala.’ The majority of the population consists of adivasis (indigenous people). In March 2000, Coca Cola, under its Indian subsidiary Hindustan Coca Cola Beverages Private Limited (HCCBPL), commenced operations at its bottling plant; HCCBPL acquired 34.4 acres of land (mostly paddy fields) for this purpose. On January 25, 2000, the Perumatty Panchayat (a local governing body whose constituency includes Plachimada) granted permission to begin building the plant. In March 2000, operations began. The Kerala State Pollution Control Board (KSPCB) granted the company a permit to produce 561,000 litres of beverage per day, with an average requirement of 3.8 litres of water for a litre of beverage. The source of water was primarily groundwater from about 6 bore wells and two open ponds, and about 2 million litres of water per day was extracted. Within six months of commencement of operations at the plant, the villagers complained that the water was unsuitable for drinking or cooking ; it had turned milky white and was brackish. In the subsequent months, several villagers complained of unusual stomachaches, while farmers complained of wells emptying unusually fast and crop yields decreasing. Corpwatch India, a public interest group, found that there were high levels of calcium and magnesium in the water, caused by excessive extraction of water. On April 22, 2002, the ‘Coca Cola Virudha Janakeeya Samara Samithy’ (Anti-Coca Cola Peoples’ Struggle Committee - henceforth Samithy) began its protest against the plant, with over 1500 people, mostly adivasis, demanding the immediate shutdown of the plant owing to the severe hazard it was causing to their daily lives. One of the founders and well known indigenous activist of the Eravalar tribe was Mayilamma. On August 4, 2002, the Samithy organised a massive rally and public meeting, with over 1000 attendees starting their march from Palimukku, a village 6 kilometres from Plachimada. Veloor Swaminathan, an adivasi leader and convener of the Samithy, presided over the public meeting. He spoke about the experience of the struggle and the sacrifices and sufferings of the adivasis, agricultural labourers and other affected peoples.  After this rally, the picketing outside the plant continued unabated. In 2003, women from the Vijayanagaram Colony in the village of Plachimada, protested that their wells had dried up because of the over exploitation of groundwater resources by the Coca-cola plant. They complained that they now had to walk nearly five kilometres twice a day to fetch water. They also argued that the little which was left was undrinkable and when used for bathing the water burned their eyes and lead to skin complaints. Aside form these health issues, the depletion of groundwater resources also affected the ability of local residents to raise their crops of rice and coconuts [2]. Meanwhile, beginning in April 2003, the struggle against the cola giant took a decisive legal turn, which lasted for many years [1]. By 2005, new rules established by the Kerala Groundwater (Control and Regulation) Act had taken effect. On November 19, 2005, the Water Resource Department included Plachimada under the category ‘overexploited’, which prevented any further extraction for commercial purposes. In January 2006, the company began considering ways of moving operations from Plachimada, and no operations have taken place at the plant since. UPDATE 13.06.16: From the Hindu, "Under pressure from the National Commission for Scheduled Castes (NCSC), the Home Department has registered a criminal case against Coca-Cola invoking provisions of the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes (Prevention of Atrocities) Act, 1989, for groundwater exploitation and pollution at Plachimada. [] Top executives of Coca-Cola in Kochi and Noida will be summoned soon for questioning. It will be the first major case in India subjecting Coca-Cola to the country’s judicial process. The court can also impose a huge compensation package, if it finds the company guilty. [] The company is accused of causing damage of Rs. 216 crore in the agrarian village. Over 200 SC community members had signed the petition. As the police failed to act, the victims led by K. Thankavelu approached the NCSC, which resulted in registering of the case."
Basic Data
NameCoca Cola plant in Plachimada, Kerala, India
CountryIndia
ProvinceKerala
SitePlachimada, Palakkad district of Kerala
Accuracy of LocationMEDIUM regional level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Water Management
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Water access rights and entitlements
Landfills, toxic waste treatment, uncontrolled dump sites
Other industries
Specific CommoditiesWater
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsIn 1993 Coca Cola bought 52 bottling and water pumping plants. It produced 1,224,000 Coca-Cola bottles a day in Plachimada plant. 260 drinking water wells were made available to the company. It used 1,5 million liters of water per day and created 150 permanent jobs and 250 seasonal jobs.
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Start Date2000
Company Names or State EnterprisesHindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Pvt Ltd (HCCBPL) from United States of America
Coca-Cola Company from United States of America
Relevant government actorsSupreme Court of India, Kerala Government, KSPCB
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersNBA - India
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginIn REACTION to the implementation (during construction or operation)
Groups MobilizingIndigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Local government/political parties
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Social movements
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Community-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Development of a network/collective action
Land occupation
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Occupation of buildings/public spaces
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Food insecurity (crop damage), Groundwater pollution or depletion, Desertification/Drought
Potential: Air pollution, Genetic contamination, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Health ImpactsVisible: Malnutrition, Deaths
Potential: Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..) , Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Infectious diseases
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Loss of landscape/sense of place, Specific impacts on women
Outcome
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseInstitutional changes
New legislation
Project cancelled
Development of AlternativesThe affected population want that Coca Cola pay for all the damage and impacts produced during its activity in Plachimada, Kerala, India.
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.The Coca Cola plant is closed since 2004. In February 2011, the Kerala assembly passed the Plachimada Coca Cola Victims Relief and Compensation Claims Tribunal Bill, effectively allowing the setting up a special tribunal that can make a $48 million claim on the American beverage giant for alleged environmental and soil degradation, and water contamination caused by its over-extraction of ground water.
Sources and Materials
Legislations

KERALA STATE POLLUTION CONTROL BOARD - order to stop operations
[click to view]

References

Social movements in India, Sahah, Ghanshyam. SAGE Publications, 2004
[click to view]

Environmental Movements in India ,S.N., Pawar, R.B., Patil, S.A., Salunkhe, Rawat Publications, 2005

The Violence of the Green Revolution, Shiva, Vandana, Other India Press, 2001

Globalisation and Corporate Control of Agriculture. Shiva, Vandana, Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, 2001

Building water democracy: Peoples victory against Coca-Cola in Plachimada, Shiva, Vandana, Research foundation for science, technology and ecology, 2004

Links

Indian Resource Center website
[click to view]

Coca-Cola lawsuit (re India), Business-Human Rights
[click to view]

The Privatization of Water in India: How Coca-Cola Destroys the Aquifer
Never Mind the Greenwash - Coca Cola Can Never Be 'Water Neutral'
By Amit Srivastava
[click to view]

[1] Ritimo - The Plachimada Struggle against Coca Cola in Southern India
[click to view]

[2] Right to Water - Case against Coca-Cola Kerala State: India
[click to view]

The Hindu, June 12, 2016 - Case against Coca-Cola unit under SC/ST Act,
[click to view]

Media Links

Occupy Coca-Cola land by Plachimada people - India - Uploaded on Dec 19, 2011
17th December embarked a new era in the history of Plachimada. The Dalit Adivasi people in Plachimada occupied the land of Coca-Cola, one of the corporate giants in the world. 22 people were arrested and remanded in Chitoor Sub-jail
[click to view]

Other Documents

http://www.madhyamam.com/en/node/10079
[click to view]

Dharna at cocacola plant Source: Outlook India
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorDaniela Del Bene - ICTA-UAB d.delbene-at-gmail.com
Last update13/06/2016
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