An expert panel with three members, led by former Chief Justice of Meghalaya High Court, Tarun Agarwal, inspected the Sterlite Copper Smelter plant in Thoothukudi on Sunday. The panel with members from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) and Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) were accompanied by the district collector Sandeep Nanduri and the superintendent of police Murali Rambha on their plant visit at around 8.30 in the morning. The committee also visited a pond in T Kumaragiri to check the quality of water and A Kumarattiyapuram village which was the starting point for the anti-Sterlite protests that lasted a hundred days.
After their visit, they also chaired a public consultation meeting, in which they received letters from general public about the future of the plant. Though the session was marked by minor altercations and scuffles, police intervention prevented it from becoming anything major. Most people who submitted representations to the 3-member panel do not want Sterlite plant to be reopened.
Addressing the media after the public consultation, Tarun Agarwal said that a majority of the representations received by the team were in favour of the plant remaining shut. He further said that the team will study the representations and then take a call about the plant.
The NGT had constituted an expert panel to study the effects of the Sterlite copper smelter plant in the region after Vedanta, the parent company of Sterlite, petitioned the NGT to consider reopening of the plant.
The anti-Sterlite protests, opposing the functioning of the plant in Thoothukudi, reached a grim conclusion on May 22, after the police opened fire at the crowd killing 13 civilians. Facing severe criticism for its actions on May 22, the TN government ordered the closure of the plant and it was sealed shut on May 28 due to TNPCB violations.