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West Bengal to inspect Coca-Cola, Pepsi plants

Debjoy Sengupta, Pradeep Gooptu in Kolkata | July 31, 2003 09:48 IST

Alarmed by reports of toxic sludge from a soft drinks bottling plant in Kerala, the West Bengal Pollution Control Board has ordered its officials to analyse all effluents and by-products released by Coca-Cola and Pepsi bottling plants in the state.

This is to find out if any of these units were discharging toxic materials harmful to the environment and the population living nearby.

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Member secretary, WBPCB, Syamal Kr Sarkar, said, "We will shortly be sending our team of experts to all bottling plants of both Coke as well as Pepsi to check if any of these units are discharging harmful and toxic substances to the environment.

"The recent incidence in Kerala where toxic substances were found in the sludge discharged by a Coke bottling plant that were being distributed to farmers as fertilisers has alarmed us and we would like to make sure that these bottling plants are not polluting the environment in the state."

Sarkar also said that the WBPCB will take strict measures if traces of any such toxic substances were found in any of these plants.

Measures could also involve closure of these units if effluents contained toxic substances or if any other type of damage to the environment was detected.

The member secretary, however, said WBPCB had given all bottling plants environment clearance on the basis of declaration made by the bottlers themselves on the composition of effluent to be discharged.

Initial tests after the units commenced production confirmed this.

"Now if the effluents contain toxic materials we have to definitely take the matter seriously," he added. Efforts to contact a designated Coke official failed.

In West Bengal Coke has three bottling plants at Taratalla in Kolkata, Dunkuni in Hoogli district and Rani Nagar in Jalpaiguri district.

Pepsi has two units, one each at Sonarpur outside Kolkata and Panagarh near Bardhman town.

The Kerala Pollution Control Board was recently directed by the state government to investigate whether toxic materials are present in the sludge supplied as fertilisers to farmers by Coca-Cola from its plant in Palakkad district.

The development follows an investigative report aired by BBC recently. The BBC, which got sludge samples from the factory tested at the University of Exeter, said the fertiliser will have a devastating effect on the villagers' health.

The BBC Radio 4's 'Face The Facts' presenter John Waite, who did the study, visited the plant in the wake of a campaign by locals protesting the over exploitation of water resources in the area.

The KPCB would test the sludge to confirm presence of toxic carcinogen cadmium and other materials in the sludge from the Coca-Cola plant.

BBC's tests had detected the toxins. Coca-Cola may be asked to shut down its plant if the sludge was confirmed to be toxic.

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