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TN Pollution Control Board's refusal to renew consent for operating Sterlite copper plant 'bad in law', Vedanta tells NGT panel

Chennai: Mining major Vedanta on Monday told a panel in Chennai, constituted by the National Green Tribunal, that the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board's refusal to renew consent to operate its Sterlite copper plant at Tuticorin was bad in law, according to sources.

File image. Reuters

File image of the Sterlite Copper plant in Tuticorin. Reuters

The panel, headed by former Chief Justice of Meghalaya High Court, Tarun Agrawal, heard the over one-hour-long submission by senior counsel PS Raman for the plant at its sitting in Chennai. Journalists were barred from entering the premises of the NGT's Southern Bench, where the panel held its sitting. The counsel for the company assailed the 9 April order of the Board and claimed that the reasons given for not renewing consent were either "erroneous" or "false," and thus bad in law, the sources told PTI.

Further, the counsel pleaded that the recommendation of the pollution control board's inspection team was a renewal for five years and without even rejecting that report, they refused renewal of consent to operate on 9 April, they said. Amid protests demanding the closure of the Sterlite unit, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board on 10 April said it has rejected an application seeking renewal of consent to operate for the Sterlite plant. The Board norms were not "properly fulfilled," by Sterlite, TNPCB had said while rejecting renewal of consent.

A public relations official of Sterlite claimed that "about 45,000 petitions in favour of reopening the plant was submitted by villagers, contractors, workmen, and vendors" to the panel. Such petitions were "authenticated" with supporting papers like Aadhar card, the official claimed. "The petitions explain the hardship caused to stakeholders and favour the plant's reopening." Many of them had also sought to be impleaded as intervenors. S Ganesan, representing a Udangudi (Tuticorin district) based farmers welfare body, ST Ponraj and former panchayat president Thiagarajan, representing a truck owners association, were among those who appeared before the committee favouring Sterlite.

Later, speaking to reporters, they alleged that they were not allowed to meet the panel chief Sunday at Tuticorin and alleged harassment and manhandling by elements opposed to Sterlite. They claimed there are no "health or environmental issues" due to the plant. MDMK chief Vaiko, one of the respondents in the matter before the NGT and intervenor KS Arjunan, (Communist Party of India (Marxist) Tuticorin district secretary) and Fatima Babu of the Anti-Sterlite People's Movement said the panel chief told them that their submissions against the plant would be heard on 5 October in its sitting in Chennai. Vaikio said he told the panel that "Sterlite is an environmental disaster", following which he was told that he would be given time to make his full submissions on 5 October. The panel was constituted by the NGT on 20 August to look into a plea challenging the plant's closure and connected issues, including environmental compliance and submit its report.

The NGT order said the "committee may, if necessary, visit the site and consider the technical data and take a decision as early as found viable preferably within six weeks after it assumes its working." On 10 September, the Supreme Court asked NGT to decide on the merits and maintainability of the issue raised by the Tamil Nadu government on Vedanta's plea, challenging the closure of its plant. The Tamil Nadu government had on 28 May ordered the state pollution control board to seal and "permanently" close the mining group's copper plant following violent protests over pollution concerns. Thirteen people were killed and several injured on 22 May when police had opened fire on a huge crowd of people protesting against environment pollution being allegedly caused by the factory.


Updated Date: Sep 25, 2018 09:05 AM

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