Chennai: In a setback to the Tamil Nadu Government, the National Green Tribunal on Saturday set aside the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) closure order to Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper factory at Thoothukudi and ordered that the state electricity board restore power to the smelter subject to certain guidelines issued by the Tribunal.
The grounds on which the government took the decision to shut down the plant were not sustainable and did not justify the impugned orders, the NGT has now held in its final order that is quite in line with the stand taken by the three-member expert committee constituted by it to study and report on the closure of the copper plant in May after anti-Sterlite protests that led to loss of 13 lives in police firing.
Allowing an appeal from Vedanta Limited, the Principal Bench of NGT comprising its chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, its judicial members Justices Raghuvendra S.Rathore and K.Ramakrishnan and its executive members Satyawan Singh Garbyal and Nagin Nanda, directed the TNPCB to pass fresh order of renewal of consent and authorisation to handle hazardous substances, subject to appropriate conditions for protection of environment in accordance with law within three weeks.
Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami was quick in his response, telling reporters in Salem that the government would challenge the NGT order in the Supreme Court. Opposition DMK president M K Stalin dubbed the NGT order as “a slap on the face of the government”; it has been the opposition charge that the government had not handled the case with firmness and competence.
The Vedanta management is predictably mighty happy at the NGT order. “We are happy that all those affected by the closure will get back their source of livelihood and the town of Thoothukudi will revert to normalcy. We will study the order in detail and shall take all steps required to restart the operations as per guidelines given by the honourable court”, said Sterlite CEO Ramnath, reiterating that the plant had been operating the copper smelter “with the best-in- class technology adapting best practices followed globally and shall continue to do so”....