Kerala to scrap Coca-Cola plant if samples found adulterated

Kochi: Kerala Health Minister P Sankaran has made it clear that his government will not hesitate to stop the functioning of the controversial bottling plant of Coca-Cola in Palakkad district if the soft drink samples from the company are found to be adulterated.

"We will issue directions without any delay," he assured the state assembly, while replying to a submission by A K Balan (CPI-M). He said samples of soft drinks have been taken from four Coca-Cola stockists in the state and also from the factory. "The results are expected within a week."

Referring to the findings of the Kerala Pollution Control Board (KPCB) that the sludge generated by the soft drink major's bottling plant and distributed to local farmers as fertiliser contained carcinogenic materials, Sankaran said it is a serious matter. "But the government does not want to take a decision in haste".

We will wait for the reports from other agencies also before taking a final decision, he said. "KPCB has found that the samples of sludge contained 201.8 mg/kg of cadmium as against the permissible level of 50 mg/kg."

KPCB carried out the test sampling of the sludge following a recent BBC Radio report that the solid waste has unacceptable high levels of cadmium and lead and the use of the material as fertiliser will have a "devastating effect" on the local farmers .

Local people are holding an agitation against the bottling unit in view of the acute shortage of drinking water in the locality. They allege that the overexploitation of drinking water by the factory has resulted in a severe drought-like situation in the area.

In view of the public anger, the local Perumatty grama panchayat had earlier this year refused to renew the licence for the bottling unit. Coca-Cola officials and panchayat representatives yesterday appeared before local self-government secretary P Kamal Kutty in connection with the final hearing on the renewal of the licence.

Perumatty grama panchayat president A Krishnan ruled out renewing the licence of the Coke plant unless a solution is found to the drinking water shortage in the villages and also to the problems associated with the high level of pollutants in the 'fertiliser' supplied by the factory. "If the government takes a decision on the contrary, we will fight it out in the court."