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Indian state adopts Coca Cola compensation bill

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, Feb 25, 2011 – The southern Indian state of Kerela has passed a bill allowing compensation claims against soft drink giant Coca-Cola over alleged environmental damage caused by a bottling plant.

The legislation adopted by the state assembly on Thursday creates a tribunal empowered to process claims for alleged losses resulting from violations of environmental regulations.

The Palakkad bottling factory in Kerala was closed in 2005 after protests from activists and residents.

A high-level state panel concluded last year that the plant had caused environmental and soil degradation as well as water contamination, and recommended a fine of 47 million dollars.

Coca-Cola denied all the allegations.

Reacting to the new bill, the company\’s Indian subsidiary, Hindustan Coca-Cola Beverages (HCCB), said it was "disappointed" and stressed that it had been denied the opportunity to share independent data before the bill was tabled.

"This bill is devoid of facts, scientific data or any input from or consideration given to HCCB," it said in a statement.

"The government\’s decision to proceed with no regard for facts or real data sets a dangerous precedent," it added.

The bill adopted by the state assembly states that the plant\’s functioning had led to drinking water scarcity and a decline in agriculture due to disposal of sludge which contained metals like cadmium, lead and chromium.

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It said the sludge disposal also affected health, with local residents complaining of skin ailments and breathing problems.

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