We remain fully committed to cleaning up the soil at our former factory and are eager to start work as soon as possible.
This has been a longstanding issue, dating back to 2001, when it was found that glass scrap with residual mercury had been sold to a scrap dealer in breach of our guidelines. HUL immediately closed the factory and launched an investigation.
There was no adverse impact on the environment except in some areas within the factory premises which required remediation. This has been confirmed by many independent studies.
We sought permission as early as 2002 to begin the soil remediation, but it was not until 2007 that we received in principle approval to start work after a full analysis was carried out by NEERI.
During the intervening period, other remedial measures such as the export of mercury bearing material to US in 2003 and decontamination and disposal of plant and machinery in 2006 were undertaken.
Soil remediation work began in 2009, but was stalled the following year after some activists contested the clean-up standard – resulting in further studies being carried out by national institutions to assess the impact on matters such as tree preservation and soil erosion.
An additional Risk Assessment Study and review of the site specific clean-up standard was also carried out by IIT Delhi. The culmination of these studies – and visits by the TNPCB and the Scientific Experts Committee (SEC) to Kodaikanal – was the reconfirmation of the TNPCB set 20mg/kg standard by the SEC in 2013. The TNPCB referred this matter to the CPCB, who endorsed the standard of 20 mg/kg in 2015.
In 2015, Hindustan Unilever submitted a Detailed Project Report for soil remediation to the TNPCB, based on the soil remediation standard as recommended by the SEC.
On December 31, 2016, HUL received permission from TNPCB to commence preparatory work and trials for soil remediation at former factory site in Kodaikanal.
On August 16, 2017, HUL commenced soil remediation on a trial basis at its former factory site in Kodaikanal. The trial was conducted for a period of three months and was successfully completed in November 2017 in accordance with the Detailed Project Report and as per the approval given by TNPCB.
In February 2018, HUL submitted the final soil remediation plan for remediating the soil inside the factory premises to the TNPCB.
On June 11, 2018, Hindustan Unilever Limited (HUL) received permission from Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) to commence full scale soil remediation to the remedial standard of 20mg/kg at its former factory site in Kodaikanal. HUL is committed to cleaning up the site.
On November 1, 2018, the Principal bench of the NGT, Delhi cleared the way for soil remediation at HUL’s former factory in Kodaikanal. The NGT also reaffirmed the soil remediation standard of 20 mg/kg.
The decision of the National Green Tribunal was challenged before the Supreme Court of India. In March 2019, the Supreme Court dismissed the petition and allowed the soil remediation to go ahead.
HUL received the Consent-to-Establish from Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) and is now in the process of installing and commissioning the remediation equipment and establishing facilities to undertake soil remediation. HUL will commence full scale soil remediation upon receiving a Consent-to-Operate from the TNPCB.