Sterlite protests: NGT sets aside order shutting down Vedanta's plant in Tuticorin; Tamil Nadu govt to appeal in SC
The NGT's decision came months after the Sterlite copper smelter was ordered shut by Tamil Nadu over alleged pollution that led to violent protests in May, which culminated in police opening fire on demonstrators and killing 13.
Chennai: An environment court set aside on Saturday the Tamil Nadu state government’s order to close Vedanta’s copper smelter plant permanently, taking the company closer to reopening its facility in southern India.
The green court’s decision came months after the smelter was ordered shut by Tamil Nadu over alleged pollution that led to violent protests in May, which culminated in police opening fire on demonstrators and killing 13.
However, Vedanta’s copper smelter plant is unlikely to resume production anytime soon as the Tamil Nadu state government is expected to appeal against the verdict to the country’s top court.
“Our stand is clear: We do not want this smelter to reopen,” Tamil Nadu’s environment minister, KC Karuppannan, said in a televised news conference after the court order.
The court directed the Tamil Nadu state pollution regulator to pass a fresh order of renewal of consent for Vedanta’s copper smelter within three weeks. It also directed the company to spend Rs 1 billion within a period of three years for the welfare of inhabitants in the area.
"We allow this appeal, set aside the impugned orders and direct the TNPCB (Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board) to pass a fresh order of renewal of consent and authorisation to handle hazardous substances ... within three weeks from today,” the National Green Tribunal said in the order.
Vedanta Ltd is part of the oil-to-metals conglomerate Vedanta Resources, which is controlled by Indian businessman Anil Agarwal. The smelter is one of the two largest in India. Resuming production is crucial for the group as it faces rising costs and the impact of a slowing economy on demand for metals and energy.
Vedanta did not respond to calls or email seeking comment on the order.
A panel of experts set up by the tribunal said last month authorities in Tamil Nadu had failed to comply with procedures before shutting down the smelter.
However, locals have protested, throwing stones and setting vehicles on fire in Thoothukudi, formerly known as Tuticorin in May, to press for the plant’s closure. The protests led to a police shooting, which killed 10 people while another three died of their wounds, making it one of India’s deadliest environmental protests.
“Both merit based issues concerning pollution and the basic question on whether the green tribunal can rule on something pertaining to a state government policy has not been addressed,” said Fatima Babu, a long-time campaigner against the operation of the smelter.
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Sterlite row: Tamil Nadu govt moves Supreme Court challenging NGT order to reopen Thoothukudi copper smelter
The Tamil Nadu government had sought permanent closure of Vedanta's Sterlite copper plant in May 2018. The state pollution control board had said the smelter, which was shut pending renewal of its operating license, had been preparing to resume production without permission.
Mining mogul Anil Agarwal on Tuesday said his plan to delist his flagship Vedanta Resources Plc from London Stock Exchange and take it private is no way linked to the Tuticorin incident and is merely an exercise to simplify a sprawling business empire
The Tamil Nadu government ordered the permanent closure of the Vedanta's copper plant and disconnected its power supply in May following protests that turned violent and culminated in the police opening fire on protesters, killing 13 of them.