Close to two weeks after Vedanta Private Limited submitted 45,000 representations from Thoothukudi district, to the National Green Tribunal, in favour of the Sterlite Copper plant, the anti-Sterlite faction has struck back. In a hearing held at Khalas Mahal in Chennai on Friday, groups against the reopening of the plant submitted over 3 lakh representations from the coastal district against the copper smelter.
The letters were submitted to a three-member committee headed by Justice Agarwal and comprising scientists Satish C Garkoti and H D Varalaxmi. The letters against the reopening of the plant were from residents of Thoothukudi town, Kumarettiyapuram, Silverpuram, Madathur, Neelavattan and other villages in the district. While the Anti-Sterlite People's movement presented 1.7 lakh petitions, Amma Makkal Munnetra Kazhagam (AMMK) presented 1 lakh petitions and Naam Tamizhar Katchi presented 1.3 lakh petitions. This, the groups claimed, was a challenge to Sterlite's previous submission of 45,000 petitions supporting it.
"When Sterlite can collect 45,000 petitions fraudulently, we have people's support - we collected over 3 lakh petitions to show what exactly Thoothukudi wants," says Regan, of the Anti-Sterlite People's movement. "We joined hands with fishermen's associations, farmer groups, Traders' association, Naam Tamizhar katchi and AMMK to get the representations," he reveals.
The groups have also submitted copies of the Aadhaar card or voter's id cards of residents and their phone numbers.
"You can call anyone on the list and they will concur to the message in the representation," challenges Regan.
The Committee had listened to Sterlite's arguments on September 5. On Friday, the proceedings began with arguments by the counsel opposing the plant. Thoothukudi DMK MLA Geetha Jeevan, Anti Sterlite People's movement's Fatima Babu, MDMK chief Vaiko, Raja and Vellaiyan from the Vanigar sangam, DMK's RS Bharathi, Makkal Adhikaram and AMMK made representations against the company.
Vaiko first spoke to the committee, highlighting the violations by Sterlite over two decades. Following this, Fatima Babu and advocate Poongkhulali presented evidence of water contamination highlighting how water quality inside and outside Sterlite had deteriorated since 1996. A comparison was made based on TNPCB data from 1996 and other baseline data presented by Sterlites consultant Vimta labs.
Fatima alleged that the plant was operating without a valid license and that Vedanta illegally disposed of over 15000 tonnes of toxic arsenic wastes. They also sold more than 3500 tonnes of toxic waste containing 7 to 26 tonnes of arsenic to unauthorised agencies," she alleged.
The panel is set to hear the matter again on October 6.