NGT orders reopening of Sterlite plant in Tamil Nadu
OUR BUREAU BUSINESS LINE
State government to appeal to Supreme Court
CHENNAI, DECEMBER 15
In a major set back to the Tamil Nadu government, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has ordered reopening of the Sterlite copper smelter plant at Thoothukudi by dismissing Tamil Nadu government’s order to close the plant.
The Tamil Nadu government plans to appeal against the NGT order in the Supreme Court.
The Tribunal also directed the Sterlite to spend ₹100 crore within a period of three years for welfare of the inhabitants in the area. The action plan prepared for utilisation of the amount be got approved from Ministry of Environment and Forest and, which may also oversee the compliance thereof.
Such action plan and progress achieved in implementation of said plan may also be uploaded on the said website for the purpose of dissemination, the Tribunal said. “We allow this appeal, set aside the impugned orders and direct the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board to pass fresh order of renewal of consent and authorisation to handle hazardous substances, in the light of above finding, subject to appropriate conditions for protection of environment in accordance with law within three weeks from today. The appellant will also be entitled to restoration of electricity for its operations,” the NGT order said.
“Since we have independently held the impugned orders to be non-sustainable and closure to be unjustifiable. The appeal stands disposed of accordingly. All pending applications also stand disposed of by disposing an appeal by the Tamil Nadu government and all pending applications against the reopening,” the NGT order said.
The appeal was against the orders dated April 9, April 12 and May 23 passed by TNPCB and order of May 28 of Tamil Nadu government under the provisions of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 and the Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981. The appeal was originally filed before the Tribunal on June 22. Subsequently, order dated May 28 2018 passed by the TNPCB to permanently seal the appellant’s unit was filed with an affidavit on July 17 to bring on record and challenge to the said order.
On May 23, the TNPCB ordered the closure of the Sterlite plant with immediate effect, and directed Tangedco to disconnect electricity supply to the unit. It issued the order on Wednesday, and subsequently power supply was disconnected this morning, said sources. The decision came two days after 15 people were killed in police firing on anti-Sterlite protesters.
The Board said the company’s application in February for Renewal of Consent for 2018-2023 was rejected due to its failure to comply with the conditions imposed at the time of the previous renewal of consent order.
However, during inspection by the Joint Chief Environmental Engineer, Tirunelveli, on May 18 and 19, it was found that the unit was working to resume production operations. Based on his recommendation, the unit was asked to be closed, and power supply to be disconnected, the Board said.
The NGT said that both the Central Pollution Control Board and TNPCB must jointly work on revised parameters of Total Dissolved Solids keeping in view the prevailing high TDS in the area for regulating the discharge of industrial effluents within two months.
"We welcome the order given by the National Green Tribunal on allowing us to resume operations of our Copper Smelter at Thoothukudi. We are happy that all those affected by the closure will get back their source of livelihood and the town of Thoothukudi will revert to normalcy. We will study the order in detail and shall take all steps required to restart the operations as per guidelines given by the honourable court. We have been operating our Smelter with the best-in- class technology adapting best practices followed globally and shall continue to do so," said P Ramnath, CEO, Sterlite Copper.
Published on December 15, 2018