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Activist Who Starred In Viral Music Video Celebrates After Unilever Settles Contamination Dispute

Sofia Ashraf's music video about alleged mercury poisoning has been watched over 3 million times since July 2015.

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Activist Sofia Ashraf, who created a viral music video about a dispute involving accusations of mercury poisoning at a Unilever India factory in Kodaikanal, Tamil Nadu, has expressed her delight after the company agreed to settled the dispute.

The 28-year-old created the YouTube clip, entitled "Kodaikanal Won't" to tune of Nicki Minaj's "Anaconda", calling on Unilever to clean up the area after allegations the site was contaminated with mercury.

Former workers have argued they developed neurological disorders caused by mercury poisoning – a charge Unilever has always denied.

For more than a decade, a trade union had been petitioning the Madras high court to take action against the company.

On Tuesday, Ashraf tweeted:

Kodaikanal Won. #UnileverSettles with workers. 1/2 battle won. Now for the cleanup! #UnileverPollutes

The Hindustan arm of Unilever, which in the UK makes products including Ben & Jerry's, Dove, Lynx, and Persil, does not accept liability but yesterday agreed to provide an undisclosed payment to a community to settle the dispute.

And the union representing the workers has agreed to withdraw its complaint.

Pressure piled on Unilever in 2015 when Ashraf's video, made to support a petition by the environmental campaigning group Jhatkaa, was viewed over three million times.

Rachita Taneja, a spokesperson for Jhatkaa, said the move was a "massive win for corporate accountability".

Jhatkaa / Via YouTube

Unilever, though, said it has entered the settlement on "humanitarian considerations" and had been meeting with the workers' representatives regularly over the past two years.

Dev Bajpai, legal and corporate affairs director at the company, said: "We have worked hard over many years to address this and find the right solution for our former workers.

"We, alongside all involved, are glad to see an outcome to this long-standing case. The wellbeing of our employees and the communities in which we operate has and will always remain paramount. This agreement demonstrates our commitment to this."

A spokesperson for the workers added: "We are pleased with all the terms of the agreement, which will help to ensure the long-term health and wellbeing of the factory's former workers. We now consider this issue to be fully resolved."

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