TN govt declines Sterlite’s request to allow reopening of plant

Chennai: The Tamilnadu government Wednesday rejected the request of the Sterlite copper smelter plant to reopen its unit at Tuticorin following an NGT order setting aside its closure, saying it has moved the Supreme Court against the tribunal’s verdict.

The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, in a letter to the plant, said “you are informed that the Tamil Nadu government and TNPCB has filed the appeal before the Supreme Court on January 2.” The state government had on 28 May directed the TNPCB to seal and ‘permanently’ close the copper plant, following violent protests over pollution concerns.

On an appeal by the company, the NGT on 15 December quashed the order, holding that it was “non-sustainable” and “unjustified”. Following this, the Vedanta group company on December 20 said it had sought permission from TNPCB to open its plant.

Sterlite Chief Executive Officer P Ramnath had said that after getting the TNPCB permission, it would take about two months to make the plant operational. Responding to Sterlite’s letter, seeking renewal of consent under the Water and Air Acts and authorisation under the Hazardous Wastes Rules, TNPCB said the plea cannot be considered.

The firm wanted opening of the seal of the premises, restoration of electricity supply and providing access to the plant to carry out urgent care and maintenance services, PCB said. On 21 December, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court had, on a plea from an Anti-Sterlite Movement’s activist, directed status quo on the Sterlite issue till 21 January and asked Tamilnadu to inform the court if it intended to file an appeal against the tribunal’s order.

Thirteen people were killed in police firing on 22-23 May last year and several injured after the protests against Sterlite turned violent in Tuticorin. Tamilnadu, in its plea Wednesday in the apex court, said the NGT has “erroneously” set aside various orders passed by the TNPCB last year with regard to the Sterlite plant.

It said the tribunal had consequentially directed TNPCB to pass fresh orders of renewal of consent and issue authorisation to handle hazardous substances to the Vedanta Limited.