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Home > News > Report

Coke plant in Kerala spewing toxins: Study

George Iype in Kochi | July 28, 2003 15:21 IST

The Coca-Cola plant in Kerala's Palakkad district has run into serious trouble.

The sludge produced by the factory at Plachimada village contains toxic chemicals that pollute the land, water supplies and food chain, according to a BBC report.

The report said the sludge, which is supplied to local farmers who use it as fertiliser, contains 'dangerous levels of the known carcinogen cadmium'.

The BBC, which got sludge samples from the factory tested at the University of Exeter, Britain, said the fertiliser supplied by Coca-Cola would have devastating consequences on the health of the local villagers.

The BBC Radio 4's Face The Facts presenter John Waite, who did the study, visited the plant in the wake of an ongoing campaign by the locals, who are protesting against the overexploitation of water resources in the area.

Early this year, the Pudussery panchayat in Palakkad district refused to renew the licence of Coca-Cola, saying the plant was depleting the groundwater in the region. But the licence was renewed after court intervention.

However, the farmers, led by local politicians, want the factory closed, and now the BBC study has spurred them.

"The BBC report is shocking and an eye-opener. Not only is the Coke factory depleting the groundwater levels in Palakkad, the plant has been supplying dangerous, toxic materials as good fertilizers to farmers," Communist Party of India-Marxist leader V S Achuthanandan told rediff.com

Achuthanandan, who is also leader of opposition in the Kerala assembly, said Coke has no more justification to produce colas from the Kerala plant. "We will help the local people step up their agitation against the Coke factory because it concerns the health and very existence of the people," he said.

Cadmium is a carcinogen and can accumulate in the kidneys, with repeated exposure possibly causing kidney failure. Lead is particularly dangerous to children and the results of exposure can be fatal. Even at low levels it can cause mental retardation and severe anaemia.

The BBC study has also quoted Britain's leading poison expert, Professor John Henry, consultant at the St Mary's Hospital, London.

"The results have devastating consequences for those living near the areas where this waste has been dumped and for the thousands who depend on crops produced in these fields," Professor Henry said.

"What most worries me about the levels found is how this might be affecting pregnant women in the area. You would expect to see an increase in miscarriages, stillbirths and premature deliveries," the expert warned.

But Coke officials insist that the sludge is harmless. "We have done our own scientific studies and found that the fertiliser being supplied to the local farmers are harmless," a factory official told rediff.com

He said the fertiliser has immensely benefited the local farmers, who find it very difficult to buy expensive and branded fertiliser products. "We have also not come across any reports of health problems and environmental hazards due to the sludge," the official added.



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