LONDON: A UK-based campaign group raised questions over Anglo-Dutch multinational Unilever’s activities in India during its annual general meeting here yesterday.
Protesters from the UK Campaign for Justice in Kodaikanal challenged the company’s executive board over allegations of poisoning in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu where a mercury thermometer factory run by the company’s majority-owned subsidiary, Hindustan Lever Limited, was shut down in 2001.
“Workers have been exposed to mercury, a toxic substance which can cause nerve damage and kidney failure. There has also been mercury contamination in the local environment, a scenic area popular with tourists,” the group said in a statement.
“Why does Unilever claim on its website that in Kodaikanal ‘there were no adverse impacts on the health of employees or the environment’ and that ‘this has been confirmed by many independent studies’ when there is strong evidence in the public domain that this is not the case?” questioned Brendan Donegan, a shareholder and academic, at the AGM.
The UK Campaign for Justice in Kodaikanal describes itself as an independent group of concerned activists that engages in activities aimed at encouraging Unilever to undertake an independent assessment of, and appropriate response to, the situation in Kodaikanal.
“There were no adverse impacts on the health of employees or the environment. This has been confirmed by many independent studies. There was limited impact on the soil at some spots within the factory premises which required remediation,” Unilever says in its statement.
“Soil remediation work will commence at the factory site once the final decision is taken on the soil clean-up standard and consent is given by the TNPCB (Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board),” it adds.
Hindustan Unilever, a subsidiary of the Anglo-Dutch multinational was operating a thermometer factory at Kodaikanal.
It stopped operations at the factory in March 2001 immediately after lapses were discovered in the recovery of mercury.
Enviornment activists are alleging of toxic pollution by the Anglo-Dutch multinational through of Mercury contamination at the spot and are demand detoxification.