Mercury poisoning in Kodaikanal, a hill station 530 kms from Chennai, due to dumping of toxic waste by Unilever's now-shut thermometer factory is one of the the most infamous cases of shirking of corporate social responsibility in India.
Chennai-based activist-rapper Sofia Ashraf's resounding message that 'Kodaikanal won't step down' to Unilever's negligence created waves across the world. When Sofia sang about the issues in to the tune of Nicki Minaj's Anaconda, it got over three million likes on YouTube and the video went viral on social media.
The viral video had such an impact that Hindustan Unilever finally bowed down and agreed to compensate 591 ex-mercury factory workers.
But the battle isn't done yet for Sofia and the activist, who have been fighting the battle against mercury poisoning in Kodaikanal for over 15 years.
Despite the compensation given to the employees, Sofia's asserts that the ecologically sensitive area around Kodaikanal hasn't been cleaned up to acceptable standards by Polman and co. and that they have released 'independent reports' and they've worked hand in glove with the Central Pollution Control Board to shirk away responsibility. Not only did he skirt around the issue of cleaning up the thermometer factory, he also went on to ridicule the work of the activists, stating that the issue had to be dealt with 'facts, not false emotions'.
Working actively solution kodai #UnileverPollutes for several years already Determined to solve.Need others too and facts not false emotions
— Paul Polman (@PaulPolman) August 6, 2015
This tweet and Unilever's lacklustre treatment of the ecology in Kodaikanal motivated Sofia to post another video, this time without rapping, to give Polman 'the facts' that he didn't seem to get the memo about.
In the video, Sofia mixes satire, analogies and little bit of Rajinikanth to make her point. With this point Sofia ensure that Kodaikanal truly won't step down.
In the video, she explains why the Central Pollution Control Board's (CPCB) proposal to clean the mercury contamination in Kodaikanal to level of 20 mg/kg was not up to par. Besides being toxic for residents, it also continues to cause damage to the ecologically sensitive Pambar Shola forest area.
To put it in perspective, she compares the CPCB verdict to the United Kingdom soil guideline value for residential areas, which puts the limit at 1 mg/kg!
Sofia concludes that the public record on Unilever's mercury contamination in Kodaikanal leaves more to be desired. To ensure that the company's contamination is cleaned-up to a high standard, Sofia, along with campaigning organisation Jhatkaa, have devised an online petition for India’s Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave.