Pollution, green belt and licenses: TNM questions Sterlite on pertinent issues

While the company did not skip questions, they chose to not provide proof to back multiple answers.
Pollution, green belt and licenses: TNM questions Sterlite on pertinent issues
Pollution, green belt and licenses: TNM questions Sterlite on pertinent issues

Over the last few weeks, protests against Sterlite Copper have intensified in Thoothukudi and residents are refusing to back down till the copper smelter is shut down. Questions on how the company received permission from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board to operate and later expand have been rising even as allegations of pollution mount against Sterlite.

TNM has conducted a detailed interview with A Sumathi, Associate Vice President, Vedanta Limited – Copper over email. While the company did not skip questions, they chose to not provide proof to back multiple answers. They said the matter is ‘sub-judice’.

1. What are the circumstances under which you left Ratnagiri district in Maharashtra? Did district administration take a view on the matter?

Orchestrating protests has been a successful business model for NGOs. Protests in India can be organised by anti-development associations/groups by whipping up emotions of the public for vested interests against any project, even for the ones which are for the economic development and strategic advantages. Similar protests were organised against our project being set up in Ratnagiri after due approvals. We challenged the views of the District administration on sound legal principles, however, simultaneously shifted our project to Tamil Nadu, and set it up in larger public interest to make India Net exporter of Copper from Net importer, which it used to be.

 2. Hazardous units like copper smelters can only be set up in special industries and hazardous use zones as per the approved master plan. Do you have proof that you have followed this? Kindly provide copy of master plan?

We set up our Copper smelter within SIPCOT Industrial Complex at Thoothukudi, which was established for major Chemical industries, after due regulatory and other approvals, as would be evident from the revised layout of SIPCOT Industrial Complex.

 3. What is the status of the land you have occupied vis a vis Thoothukudi's approved master plan? 

Layout approved by DTCP mentions Zone A and Zone B of SIPCOT Industrial Complex, Thoothukudi to be meant for major Chemical industries.

4. In November 2004, TNPCB inspected your factory and found that you have constructed a new factory complex without permission. Is this true? In order to set up a factory, before construction begins, a consent to establish under air and water act is mandatory. In 2004, Sterlite constructed a 900 tonnes per day copper smelter complex. Kindly provide copies of consent to establish for the copper smelter complex?

These issues were raised before the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India and Hon’ble Madras High Court and the judgements passed therein must operate as quietus to the conclusions therein and they ought not be re-agitated or re-argued time and again, as observed by NGT in its final judgement.

5. Can you provide studies to prove that there are no adverse health effects because of your operations - to both your employees and residents close to the plant?

National Green Tribunal, New Delhi vide its judgement has expressly recorded at para 41 that “...The cumulative effect of the report is that the appellant-company’s unit has been found non-polluting and non-health hazardous during the considerably long period of operation over which the Special Expert Committee controlled and supervised the operation.” Also see para 54 of this judgement for better appreciation. Further the employees living close to the plant for the past several years including senior management are living proof of no adverse effects of the plant. Regular health checks for employees is being done. Also community health checks is being done and details of same being sent to TNPCB regularly wherein no such health hazard due to our operations are reflected.

6. Since 2009, Sterlite has repeatedly maintained that it has developed a greenbelt of adequate width around the perimeter of the proposed copper smelter. Can you kindly provide photographic evidence? 

The issue pertaining to greenbelt has been argued at length before Hon’ble Supreme Court of India and its sufficiency has been verified by NEERI and TNPCB.

(This table and picture were provided by Vedanta as proof of the Greenbelt)

 7. SIPCOT industrial complex Phase II is a notified industrial estate and if it is, what is the extent (area) of the estate? At the time of notification as an industrial complex Phase 2 how much land was already in possession of SIPCOT? 

SIPCOT Phase II is a notified industrial estate with a total extent of 1616 acres. In 2005, under the subject Government Order, SIPCOT acquired 436.54 acres of land for establishment of its phase II. Out of the acquired 436.54 acres, 319.99 acres were allotted to Sterlite Copper for establishment of its Plant 2.

8. Also if the Tuticorin industrial park is part of a notified industrial estate, why does it need a public hearing and environmental clearance?

EIA notification, 2006 makes it mandatory for any industrial estate to have public hearing and environmental clearance. This notification came into application on 14.09.2006 and there was as such no retrospective application of this Notification, 2006. Therefore, any land acquired post 14.09.2006 needs public hearing and environmental clearance. The land allotted for our expansion project were acquired prior to 2006 hence no public hearing was required for this.

9. Why has the TNPCB not renewed your license to operate?

TNPCB has not renewed our license to operate for want of additional reports and documents.

10. What are the documents requested?

We cannot respond on the other questions as the matter is subjudice.

Related Stories

No stories found.
The News Minute