Vedanta Sterlite plant: Tamil Nadu govt to challenge NGT order in SC, Opposition accuses state of 'negligent' attitude

Chennai: The Tamil Nadu government Saturday said it would challenge in the Supreme Court the NGT order setting aside the closure of the Vedanta Ltd's Sterlite Copper plant in Tuticorin on pollution grounds in the wake of protests by locals.

The opposition parties hit out at the state government, holding it responsible for the development with the DMK alleging that the 'negligent' attitude of the Palaniswami ministry resulted in the 'embarrassment'.

The Vedanta group said it would take all steps required to restart the unit as per the guidelines of the tribunal and that the company would continue to adopt "best practices followed globally" in its operation.

 Vedanta Sterlite plant: Tamil Nadu govt to challenge NGT order in SC, Opposition accuses state of negligent attitude

File image of K Palaniswami. Twitter/@CMOTamilNadu

The National Green Tribunal on Saturday set aside the order of the state government to permanently close the Sterlite Copper plant, holding that it was "non-sustainable" and "unjustified".

Allowing an appeal by Sterlite, a bench headed by NGT Chairperson AK Goel asked the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) to pass a fresh order for renewal of consent and authorisation to handle hazardous substances, subject to appropriate conditions for protection of the environment in accordance with law within three weeks from Saturday.

The state government had on 28 May ordered the permanent closure of the factory days after violent protests by the locals against the plant led to death of 13 people in police firing.

In a terse reaction to the NGT verdict, Palaniswami told reporters in Salem that "the Tamil Nadu government will appeal against this order in the Supreme Court".

Attacking the government, DMK President MK Stalin said it should not stop with merely saying it would appeal and take concrete action to permanently close the unit.

The state cabinet should take a policy decision to ensure the permanent closure after gathering evidence of environmental threats and conducting scientific surveys to show continued operation of the copper unit would result in irreversible pollution, he said.

In a statement, Stalin said despite the DMK's insistence on a policy decision by the state cabinet to permanently close down the Sterlite unit, Palaniswami government got the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board to issue the order to shut the unit.

"By his negligent action, Palaniswami has not only brought embarrassment to himself but has also brought shame on the state officials known for their administrative efficiency," he alleged.

Senior AIADMK leader and Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar said the government's stand was that there should be a permanent closure of the copper plant.

"We have already taken a decision that this plant should not be operated at any cost. That is our stand. As stated by the chief minister, we will make an appeal against the NGT order", he said.

In Coimbatore, Municipal Administration Minister SP Velumani and Environment Minister KC Karuppannan said there was no change in the stance of the state government and the chief minister that Sterlite would not be allowed to function again.

"The government will fight the issue legally and approach the court at the earliest", they said.

A strong opponent of Sterlite, MDMK chief Vaiko alleged that the ruling AIADMK and the TNPCB were responsible for the NGT order.

"Fearing huge public unrest over the issue, the government enacted a drama by closing the unit on 22 May, he alleged.

Vaiko, who was a party before the NGT and argued in support of closure of Sterlite unit, said he would approach the Supreme Court against the tribunal's order.

Viduthalai Chiruthaigal Katchi leader Thol Thirumavalavan said the state government should obtain a stay on the NGT order and convene an all-party meeting to discuss the future course of action.

In its filing in the Bombay Stock Exchange, the Vedanta Limited said the court had directed the TNPCB to pass a fresh order for the renewal of consent and restoration of electricity supply for the plant's operations within three weeks.

"We will study the order in detail and shall take all the 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 and adopting best practices followed globally and shall continue to do so," it said.

Updated Date: Dec 16, 2018 08:33:54 IST