Activists say the government order is poorly worded, and that Sterlite could take the order to court and win the battle there.

Operated in a transparent manner Sterlite responds to TN govt endorsing closure
news Sterlite Protest Tuesday, May 29, 2018 - 11:05

A day after the Tamil Nadu government endorsed the closure of the Sterlite copper smelter in Thoothukudi, its parent company Vedanta Resources has maintained that it operated the plant in a transparent and sustainable manner. Vedanta has further decided to study the Government Order (GO) in question and chart their future course of action.

The GO issued on Monday by the Environment and Forests Department noted, “Under sections, 18(1)(b) of the Water Act, 1974 in the larger public interest, the Government endorses the closure direction of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board and also directs the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board to seal the unit and close the plant permanently.”

The GO cited the non-renewal of the plant’s license by the TNPCB for the decision. “It is brought to the notice of the Government that Tamil Nadu Pollution Board did not renew the Consent to Operate to M/s Vedanta Limited, Copper Smelter Plant, SIPCOT Industrial Complex, Thoothukudi District in its order dated 9.4.2018. Subsequently, on 23.5.2018, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board has also issued directions for closure and disconnection of power supply to the Unit. The power supply has been disconnected on 24.5.2018.”

Sterlite, however, remains unfazed by this development.

“Closure of Sterlite copper plant is an unfortunate development, especially since, we have operated the plant for over 22 years in the most transparent and sustainable way, contributing to Tuticorin’s and the state’s socio-economic development. We will study the order and decide on the future course of action," said a statement issued by the company.

On April 9, 2018, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board issued an order rejecting Sterlite's application to renew the license to operate its copper smelter in Thoothukudi. On May 23, it followed up with a closure order directing the disconnection of electricity.

While TNPCB’s move is seen as a response to the mounting public pressure and anger, activists say the quality of the response is not satisfactory.

According to environmental activist Nityanand Jayaraman, "A reading of the two orders – the one rejecting license renewal and the other disconnecting electricity – conveys that the government is either being led up the garden path by TNPCB or is trying to make a big fool of Thoothukudi residents. Both orders are pathetically weak, poorly argued, legally fraught and fail to highlight the gross illegalities in Sterlite's operations."

This would mean that Sterlite could still fight it out in court and reopen if it came down to a legal battle.

As protests against the copper smelter in Thoothukudi mounted, last week, the police shot at unarmed civilians, killing 13 people, injuring over 100 others.



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