Health Minister K.K. Ramachandran on Monday said the Government "would not allow the bottling plant of Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages Pvt. Ltd. at Plachimada to reopen against the will of the people." (Mr. Ramachandran is the first Minister to have visited Plachimada where the local people have been waging an agitation for the last three years demanding the closure of the company for allegedly exploiting the groundwater, leading to shortage of water for drinking and irrigation purposes.)
In an official press release, the Minister said "the Government will stand by the people in whichever court the company goes. The right over water and air is the right to live. The Government will not allow stopping of these two lifeline of the people."
The Minister also held a discussion with officials of the Kerala State Pollution Control Board on issues concerning the Coca-Cola plant.
S.D. Jayaprasad, member-secretary of the Board, said the company had not implemented the direction of the Board to set up a water treatment plant to treat wastewater. He said in August 2004, the Board had examined the waste from the effluent treatment plant of the company and the water in the nearby panchayat wells. The pollution from the treatment plant was much above the permissible limit of .01 mg. In the water from the wells, the presence of cadmium fell to .007 mg after the Coca-Cola plant was closed down in 2003.
Meanwhile, the spokesman of Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages said in a statement here on Monday said that its plant at Plachimada "adhered to all conditions and requirements put by the Kerala State Pollution Control Board as well as the global environment policy of the Coca-Cola company. The plant is also certified under the internationally recognised environment manager system ISO 14001.
"The Plachimada plant's final discharge fully meets the standards prescribed by the Kerala State Pollution Control Board. The Board has allowed the company to install any appropriate technology for effluent treatment and the company is fully committed to continue meeting the final discharge standards prescribed by the Board.
The allegations and concerns raised by a few people against the Coca-Cola plant's operation are not substantiated by any scientific evidence and have already been thoroughly examined by various independent authorities, scientific institutions and the Kerala High Court, which found no merit in any of the claims against the company, the statement said.
The company spokesman said the Health Minister had declined a request to visit the plant during his visit to Plachimada on Monday.
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