2nd April 2015. The Supreme Court of Zambia today upheld a 2011 High Court verdict which found Vedanta (KCM) guilty of water pollution which poisoned thousands of Chingola residents in 2006(1).Meanwhile in London protesters held a vigil outside outside the Zambia High Commission, drumming and holding banners in solidarity with the victims of Vedanta’s water pollution. The judgement will be officially read out in court in seven days time.
The High Court had awarded 10 billion kwacha in total to 2000 claimants who had suffered illness and liver and kidney damage as a result of drinking the water.(2) However Vedanta challenged the decision which was not re-heard until June 2014. Today’s judgement delivered some justice to the poisoned victims after eight long years wait, but will not award compensation until an assessment is carried out by the High Court Deputy Registrar. This is likely to reduce the total award since the claimants were only able to show twelve medical reports which they had been able to obtain at the time of the pollution incident. The High Court had previously ruled that these twelve reports were indicative of the damage caused to all residents who had drunk the water, and had heard testimonies from victims who were unable to obtain medical reports from the doctors (many of whom worked in Vedanta sponsored medical centres).
James Nyasulu, a poultry farmer from Chingola and the lead claimant in the case reacted to the judgement today:
“The court should have stood firm and fully supported the High Court judgement. Compensation should even be increased due to the damage done to our health and interest on the original award. The poison we drank violated our right to life, but the court is treating life as cheap. Citizens of this country cannot be treated as guinea pigs for investors.”