Just hours after the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board ordered for the closure of all production activities at Vedanta's Sterlite Copper smelter in Thoothukudi, the company's founder has expressed hope that they can restart operations again. Anil Agarwal, Chairman of Vedanta Resources, further told the media that the company would abide by the law of the land.
The statement from the founder comes at a time when Tamil Nadu is mourning the death of 12 anti-Sterlite protesters in Thoothukudi. Residents in the district have been protesting for over 100 days, demanding that the plant that pollutes the environment and affects their health be shut down permanently. In the wake of these ongoing protests, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board issued a fresh order for closure and disconnection of power supply to Sterlite copper.
Vedanta, however, chose to gloss over the reasons for the non-functioning of the unit and instead claimed that it was due to 'annual maintenance'.
"Incident that happened, this was absolutely unfortunate," says Anil Agarwal. " The plant closed for annual maintenance. We are waiting for clearance from government and court to restart. Strictly following orders from court and government. We always make sure community and Tuticorin people prosper with us. I am totally committed to the community and the people at large. With their wish, with their prosperity we would like to continue this business. Once again, I assure you that I am fully committed to the environment, the development of people of Tuticorin and TN. We will fully abide by law of land," he added.
TNPCB had refused to renew Sterlite's license as they did not comply with certain conditions imposed in the previous renewal of consent order issued to the unit. This meant that their application for a fresh renewal this year was rejected. This came to light in early April through a letter written by Vedanta – the parent firm of Sterlite – to the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) and the National Stock Exchange (NSE), informing them about the rejection of the application under Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) guidelines.
The latest orders have been issued by the TNPCB under section 33A of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution)Act and Section 31A of Air(Prevention and control of Pollution) Act. Now, the unit cannot resume its production operation without obtaining prior approval from the Board.
This drastic step was taken by the TNPCB after its Joint Chief Environmental Engineer who inspected the unit found that it was carrying out activities to resume its production operation and recommended closure and disconnection of power and water supply to the unit.
The reason for the non-renewal of license to Sterlite include - dumping of copper slag, lack of ground water analysis, inappropriate disposal of hazardous waste and failure to conduct studies on arsenic content in environment.