The plant in the village of Plachimada is one of 27 run by the cola company in India.

The world’s attention was first focused on the plant when its rural neighbours raised concerns about dwindling water supplies, complaining that its water treatment processes were draining the water table, leaving nothing left for local agriculture.

Villagers noticed changes to their water supply just six months after the factory began operating (see related story) saying the water had become milky and brackish.

In an attempt to woo the local farmers, Coca Cola then gave them ‘nutritious’ sludge, a by product from the bottling process, to spread on their fields as fertiliser.

But the sludge was contaminated with cadmium and Kerala’s Pollution Control Board this week demanded the plant be closed until it cleans up its act.

The board said it was unhappy with the fact Coca Cola had not yet disclosed the cadmium content in waste generated by the unit, nor had it been able to provide drinking water in a satisfying manner to local residents.
It also wants the company to install a reverse osmosis plant or a similar unit to clean waste generated by the factory.

The controversial plant has been the subject of numerous press reports and even a BBC documentary.

Faced with widespread condemnation from environmentalists and NGOs, Coca Cola India appears to have adopted a siege mentality and has even set up a website geared specifically to countering press claims.

The company has always denied any wrong doing.

By Sam Bond

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