Chennai: Challenging State Government move to shut down the Sterlite Copper plant at Thoothukudi, the Vedanta group stated that closure order issued against its unit was arbitrary and violated norms.
The group on Monday stated this before the former Meghalaya High Court Chief Justice Tarun Agrawal, head of a three-member committee appointed by National Green Tribunal, New Delhi, to decide Vedanta’s plea challenging closure of Sterlite’s copper plant at Thoothukudi by the State Government. Over 45,000 representations from local residents were submitted before the committee in favour of the copper smelter, seeking of the government to reopen the plant.
A day after the committee inspected the Sterlite Copper Smelter plant in Thoothukudi, the panel led by Justice Agrawal conducted a hearing at Kalas Mahal, NGT, Southern Bench in Chennai.
The senior counsel appearing on behalf of the Vedanta Group submitted that the State Government issued a G.O. dated May 28, 2018 directing the TNPCB to seal the unit and close the plant permanently.
The closure order was issued without obtaining opinion of the company and it was arbitrary. The unit has been following all the norms of the TNPCB and other authorities.
It had not caused any pollution in the coastal town and not violated any provisions. After the closure, the government had not even allowed the management to remove the raw material, including sulphuric acid from the plant premises. He said the closure order affected livelihood of several thousand people in the town.
A doctor working at Sterlite unit, Dr Kailasam, informed panel that the employees in plant at Thoothukudi not faced any health related issue due to the operation of the unit. It was wrong to say that the plant was responsible for causing cancer among the local residents. He also submitted similar letters from his two predecessors.
M Esakkiappan, Public Relations Officer for unit, said they were not allowed to submit the representation to the panel when its members visited Thoothukudi on Sunday. Hence the people came to Chennai to submit the representation to the panel in person today. He said following the closure the livelihood of the people was severely affected. Fishing and agricultural activities not affected due to the operation of the plant.
He said we have received more than 45,000 representations from local residents, employees, contract workers, contractors, truckers associations, farmer associations and other stakeholders. All these were compiled and submitted before the panel now. Residents of Kumarettiyapuram, South Veerapandiapuram, Silverpuram, Thoothukudi town sent in letters supporting the plant.
After the hearing took place from 10.30 am to 2.30 pm, the MDMK leader Vaiko, told the media, "The Committee heard what the company had to say. Justice Agarwal may give a chance to the voices of those who have lost family members during the anti-Sterlite protests, farmers, fishermen and traders. Justice Agarwal agreed to hear our voices on October 5. He told the Committee that Sterlite is an environmental disaster.
The committee headed by Justice Agarwal and members - scientists Satish C Garkoti and H D Varalaxmi - had time to listen to Sterlite's arguments. The panel posted the matter to October 5 for further hearing.