The Supreme Court today refused to allow reopening of Vedanta’s Sterlite copper plant in Thoothukudi district of Tamil Nadu. Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) had approached the apex court opposing the National Green Tribunal’s order to reopen the plant.
The Supreme Court said that NGT does not have the jurisdiction to interfere in Tamil Nadu state government’s order to shut the copper smelting plant. The court however, allowed Sterlite to approach the Madras High Court for permission to reopen the plant.
The Tamil Nadu government had ordered Sterlite to close down its plant permanently following violent protest in May 2018. After police firing during the protest, 13 people were killed.
Environmentalists, locals and activists claim that the copper smelting unit was polluting the groundwater in the area, making many come down with serious diseases.
Story behind the closure of the Sterlite plant:
On 28 May last year, TNPCB ordered the closure and disconnection of electricity supply under provisions of Section 33A of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, and Section 31A of Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1971. Sterlite’s parent company Vedanta Private Limited then approached the NGT against the closure orders, following which an expert committee headed by former Chief Justice of Meghalaya High Court Tarun Agarwal was formed to probe the matter.
The committee while admitting the plant caused pollution, still gave the green flag for it to be opened.
The five reasons given by the state government for refusal to grant consent to operate to Sterlite Copper included:
- Not furnishing groundwater analysis report
- Not removing copper slag stored along the River Uppar and not constructing physical barrier between the river and the slag
- The unit did not have authorization to generate and dispose hazardous waste
- The unit has not analyzed parameters of heavy metals in the ambient air quality
- The unit has failed to construct gypsum pond as per CPCB guidelines.
Compiled by: Anshita Bhatt
Sources: NDTV, The News Minute