A number of activists took to Twitter to urge Unilever to engage in a proper clean up in Kodaikanal

Activists attack Unilever on social media again with Twitter storm over mercury mess
news Social media activism Wednesday, April 20, 2016 - 20:56

After the outrage generated by the Youtube video of rapper Sofia Ashraf’s song on Hindustan Lever’s dumping of mercury in Kodaikanal’s Pambar Shola reserved forest, activists have once again taken to social media to protest against the parent company Unilever.

This time around, activists took to Twitter on the occasion of Unilever’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) in the UK, to generate a Twitter storm between 3 pm and 4 pm on Wednesday. The Twitter storm saw the revival of the hashtag #UnileverPollutes, as a number of people including human rights lawyer Sudha Bharadwaj, activist Nityanand Jayaraman and rapper Sofia Ashraf tweeted on the issue.

Someone even went as far as to include Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Swachh Bharat Abhiyan in the issue.    

The Kodaikanal story dates back to 1983, when a mercury thermometer plant owned by Ponds was closed down in America and moved to Kodaikanal. The plant acquired by Hindustan Unilever Limited was shut down after reports emerged that HUL had illegally sold 43 tonnes of mercury waste to scrap dealers and the discovery of 7.4 tonnes of crushed glass thermometers laced with mercury at a dumpsite in 2001.  

Sofia Ashraf’s video, titled ‘Kodaikanal Won’t’, based on the Nicki Minaj song ‘Anaconda’, brought the battle between Unilever and workers of the factor affected by exposure to mercury back into the limelight in 2015. With Nicki Minaj herself tweeting about the video and Hollywood actor Mark Ruffalo lending his support for the cause the movement picked up steam.

The result was that Unilever agreed to a settlement with 591 factory workers, ending their long drawn out struggle for justice.   

But the settlement that came on March 9, 2016 did not address the problem of environmental degradation that has been caused in the area. Residents and environmentalists are demanding that Unilever clean up the factory site according to the levels appropriate for an ecologically and hydrologically important forest ecosystem, but Unilever is allegedly insisting on an operation that will leave behind nearly a fourth of the mercury in the soil even after the clean up.

At the time of writing this story, Unilever and its CEO, Paul Polman, are yet to reply to the tweets from the Twitter storm. 

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