Tamil Nadu government had in May ordered permanent closure of Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper unit after 13 people killed in police firing.
- Sterlite Copper is a copper smelting unit and is a subsidiary of the London-based Vedanta Group.
- Sterlite produces non-ferrous metals like copper, aluminium and zinc, along with chemicals such as sulphuric acid and phosporic acid.
- The plant in Thoothukudi is one of two copper plants in the country, the other one being in Silvassa,Dadra and Nagar Haveli.
About the issue:
- Sterlite appeals for its renewal of consent to operate on 31, January 2018.
- TNPCB rejects the Sterlite’s application.
- People protested for the closure of the plant
- 13 people dies in a police firing during the protest on May 22, 2018
- The commission of inquiry headed by retired judge Aruna Jagadeesan appointed to examine why 12 lives were brutally snuffed out
- TNPCB and state government ordered to close the plant on May 28, 2018.
- Sterlite appeals to NGT against state’s action on June 22, 2018.
- On Dec 15, 2018, NGT ordered TNPCB to pass order of renewal of consent.
- This was the set back to Tamil Nadu Government because NGT dismissed the Tamil Nadu government’s order to close the plant.
- Then, Tamil Government moved to Supreme Court against the order of NGT on Jan 2, 2019.
- TN government appealed against the NGT order in Supreme Court.
- On Jan 8, 2019 the Supreme Court has ordered the reopening of the Vedanta Group’s Sterlite Copper Smelter in Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu.
- The SC refused to stay NGT order to re-open Sterlite.
- Vedanta group appealed to SC, seeking a direction to TNPCB to implement NGT order.
- SC on February, 2019 refused to allow reopening of Sterlite plant but granted company liberty to approach the High Court.
Associations which are against the closure
- Tuticorin Stevedores Association(TSA)handles manual cargo at the VO Chithabaranar Port in Tuticorin. TSA wanted the plant to be run. It said that the closure of the plant has affected the livelihood of thousands of freight operators, drivers and workers in related industries.
- Chemical Industries Association and winding wire manufacturers association have also opposed the closure of the plant.
Impact on environment
- Pollution of ground and seawater.
- Release huge amount of toxic gases into the atmosphere.
- The factory has severely affected the livelihoods of people through its chemical discharge.
- High levels of iron, arsenic, cadmium and nickel, all of which are toxic, are found in the soil samples collected in the region around the plant.
- Water samples collected vicinity shows high level of sulfate and calcium.
- It is an indication that Sterlite has contaminated water supplies.
- The water is unfit for direct consumption or agriculture.
- In 2013, after a severe leak of sulphuric acid that led to residents suffering various symptoms of poisoning
The solution should be designing and operating modernized, processing plants and smelters which can release gases with lower levels of toxicity. This process can be applied not just for Sterlite plant, but also to all copper smelters across the country. However, such environmental projects can be relatively costly and so many companies could hesitate. So, government can help them with the form of subsidies in terms of equipment import.