The Centre’s reply was based on a study conducted by Central Ground Water Board to determine the ground water quality in and around the SIPCOT area in Thoothukudi.

Ground water in Sterlite copper plant contaminated Centre tells Parliament
news Environment Tuesday, July 24, 2018 - 09:45

Two months after Vedanta's Sterlite copper received closure orders from the Tamil Nadu Government over violation of enivronmental norms, the Centre confirmed on Monday that groundwater in the SIPCOT area of Thoothukudi where Sterlite is also located, is polluted. This revelation is based on a study conducted by the Central Ground Water Board (CGWB), carried out to determine the ground water quality in and around the SIPCOT area in the district.

This information was provided by the Water Resources Ministry is based on a question asked by Tamil Nadu MP Sasikala Pushpa in Rajya Sabha. The MP asked whether the government had initiated any steps to check the nature of ground water in Thoothukudi in the backdrop of the people’s agitation against the Sterlite plant, alleging it had contaminated ground water. She further requested for details of the study.

Arjun Ram Meghwal Minister of State for Water Resources, River Development and Ganga Rejuvenation in his reply said, “Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) has carried out a study to ascertain the ground water quality in and around SIPCOT industrial area, Thoothukudi (wherein, M/s Sterlite industry is one of the industry).”

"The study indicates that most of the groundwater samples are contaminated with high TDS (total dissolved solids) and heavy metals like Lead, Cadmium, Chromium, Manganese, Iron and Arsenic, which are beyond permissible limits of BIS (Bureau of Indian Standards) for drinking water," he said.

“As per information received from Central Pollution Control Board, the analysis of ground water samples, from the Sterlite industrial unit, by the State Pollution Control Board shows presence of Iron, Lead, Fluoride, Cadmium and Nickel more than the permissible limit of BIS," he added.

On the question of what action had been taken, the Centre stated that the Sterlite unit had been shut down. “The Central & State Pollution Control Boards are controlling industrial pollution under the provision of Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution), Act, 1974. The Sterlite industrial unit has been closed by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board on 23.5.2018, inter-alia, due to non-compliance of consent conditions,” the minister said.

On July 20, PMK MP Dr Anbumani Ramadoss had asked for details of recent environmental assesment reports for development projects in Tamil Nadu, including the Sterlite Copper plant. In their reply, Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change, Dr Harsha Vardhan had said that there was ‘no recent Environment Impact Assessment’ prepared.

“The first environmental clearance for this project was granted on 16th January 1995. The project proponent has further obtained environmental clearance for expansion from time to time. The project proponent has made an application for prescribing fresh Terms of Reference for preparation of Environment Impact Assessment report for expansion proposal on 14th February 2018, which is under consideration. The Environment Impact Assessment report will be prepared only after prescribing Terms of Reference. Therefore, there is no recent Environment Impact Assessment report prepared by the project proponent,” the minister said.