THOOTHUKUDI: The National Green Tribunal (NGT) appointed expert committee commenced its two-day inspection at Sterlite here, on Saturday.
Based on allegations that the private copper smelter plant here had severely damaged the environment, the NGT set up a committee headed by retired Judge, Tarun Agrawal.
The committee comprises of two experts — Dr Satish C Garkoti, senior scientist, Ministry of Environment, Forest & Climate Change, and H. D. Varalaxmi, senior environmental engineer, from the Regional Directorate, Central pollution control board, Bangalore.
Reaching Thoothukudi by an evening flight at around 4.15 pm, the members headed straight away to a private land which has been used as dumping site for around 3.25 lakh tones of copper slag. Inspecting the copper slag dumping ground adjacent to a flood channel for about 40 minutes, the expert team also listened to the versions of the representatives from Sterlite and of the anti-Sterlite activists, which included MDMK general secretary, Vaiko, also.
Vaiko complained that the copper slag dumped at the site had severely contaminated ground water. Russel Ratinam of CITU, who too is a litigant against the plant, wanted the team to inspect one other such place, where the company had dumped its copper slag in the district.
One of the activists, reti-red Prof Fathima Babu, while representing her grievances, wanted the expert committee to take action to close down the plant permanently. Chairperson of the committee, Justice Tarun Agrawal, however, said he cannot take any decision on closure of the plant as he has been appointed by the NGT only to study the situation in and around the plant sites.
However, as representatives from Sterlite were explaining their stand to the team, a few activists intervened and argued that being the representatives of the ‘culprit’ company, they had no right to speak. They did not stop arguing despite repeated appeal by Justice Agrawal, following which the judge rebuked them saying that he would not listen to them, if they created problems.
Earlier, speaking to mediapersons at the airport, committee chairperson, Justice Tarun Agrawal, said that after inspection, they would submit their report to the NGT within the next six weeks.
The expert team is said to commence its second-day inspection of the copper smelter plant site by around 8 am on Sunday (Sept. 23) following which they would be available for public to submit their grievances in writing at a public hearing organised at the government polytechnic college here, by 11.30 pm.
The team’s third day assignment on September 24, is to meet representatives of the smelter plant and intervenors on the issue, in Chennai....