A week after 13 civilians were gunned by police officials in Thoothukudi district in Tamil Nadu during the anti-Sterlite agitations, the Tamil Nadu government has cancelled land previously allotted for the expansion of the copper plant.
A letter from the State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu to Sterlite Vedanta reads, “There has been a series of agitations and protests against the establishment of Copper Smelter plant (Phase-II) by M/s Vedanta Limited. The people of the area have also been raising concerns about their health on account of the operations of the plant. As the allotment of the land for the proposed expansion has been made by SIPCOT, in larger public interest, the land allotment made by SIPCOT for proposed expansion of Copper Smelter plant (Phase II) by M/s Vedanta Limited is hereby cancelled. The land price collected for the said land allotment will be refunded as per norms of SIPCOT.”
The letter references land allotted on December 16, 2005 and February 16, 2006 during the AIADMK administration as well as land allotted during September 23, 2009 and March 23, 2010 during the DMK’s tenure.
A day after the shooting, the Madurai bench of the Madras High Court had passed an interim order in connection with allegations of Sterlite operating a second unit in Thoothukudi by violating the Environmental Protection Act of 1986. Passing the order last Wednesday, the court stayed construction of the new copper smelter by Sterlite.
The High Court had also directed the Centre to hold a public hearing within four months before granting environment clearance for the new copper smelter plant. The decision on the new construction, the court said, should be made by September. It ordered the Vedanta group to send a fresh petition to the Centre for environmental clearance.
In a Government Order on Monday, the Environment and Forests Department of the Tamil Nadu government endorsed the closure of the plant. Soon after the GO was issued, Thoothukudi Collector Sandeep Nanduri arrived at the SIPCOT Industrial Complex with SP Murali Rambha amidst high security and supervised the sealing of the copper plant. The government order was glued to the gates by officials.