The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Thursday formed a three-member expert committee to study the pollution levels caused by Sterlite Copper Smelter plant in Thoothukudi. The committee will be headed by the former Chief Justice of the Punjab and Haryana High Court SJ Vazifdar and will have one member from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and one member from the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change.
The NGT further ordered that this committee shall start its work within two weeks from the date of order. â€śThe Committee may, if necessary, visit the site and consider the technical data and take a decision as early as found viable preferably within six weeks after it assumes its working,â€ť reads the order.
Citing that the proposal to place the matter before an independent and credible committee was put forth to both the parties, the NGT said, â€śWe confronted the learned Counsel for the parties with the proposal to remit the matter to an independent committee as above so that the Committee can hold sitting at Chennai or even visit the site to have first-hand assessment, in absence of specific instructions, it was not possible for learned Counsel to make a statement. They have not put forward any meaningful objection to the concept of an impartial and fair consideration of the matter afresh after giving opportunity to the parties.â€ť
The tribunal further ordered that the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) will provide all logistic support to the Committee. It also added that the remuneration of the Chairman and Members of the Committee shall be determined by the Chief Secretary of Tamil Nadu government.
The NGT had, on August 20, ordered a new committee to probe the pollution charges on the plant. Sterlite had challenged the TN governmentâ€™s decision to have shut down the plant as a knee-jerk reaction to the anti-Sterlite protests and placed on record its reservations about having a retired judge from Tamil Nadu to lead the committee.
On August 9, the NGT had granted Vedanta, the parent company of Sterlite, permission to carry out administrative works from within the plant. Vedanta had further requested the NGT to consider appointing a special expert committee to study the plant for 30 days and then submit a report to the tribunal based on its observations on the operations of the plant.