Chennai: The Tamil Nadu government decided to allow Sterlite Industries to produce Oxygen at its Copper Smelter plant in Thoothukudi on Monday even as Advocate General Vijay Narayan told the Madras High Court that most of the oxygen manufactured there was of industrial quality and not fit for medical use.
Though the nod to open the oxygen manufacturing plant alone was given for four months, on a temporary basis, at an all-party meeting, attended by representatives of ‘recognised political parties,’ leaders of a few other political parties came down heavily on the decision.
Among the conditions laid out for Sterlite were that none of the other units in the Thoothukudi plant can be opened or operated and that the oxygen produced in the next four months, which may be extended in view of the continuing pandemic, should be primarily supplied to hospitals in Tamil Nadu.
‘Under no circumstances will the company be allowed to produce copper or electricity or any other produce inside the plant,’ said one of the resolutions at the meeting, which made it clear that the oxygen manufacturing would be monitored by a committee, led by the Thoothukudi District Collector.
The committee will have the Superintendent of Police, Sub-Collector, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board district environment engineer, two government officials with expertise in oxygen production, three public representatives, one from the locality, one from an environment NGO and another from the anti-Sterlite protest group.
The entire operation in the plant, for which power supply would be by the State electricity board, would be supervised by the committee and only those the technological experts directly connected with the production of oxygen will be allowed inside the premises.
Addressing the all-party meeting, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami said Sterlite has moved the High Court seeking permission for producing oxygen at his two units inside the plant that have a capacity for 1050 tonnes.
Sterlite had promised to provide the oxygen produced in the plant free of cost to hospitals in Tamil Nadu and the meeting had been convened to help the government take a call on the company’s plea in view of the testing times in which there is a shortage of oxygen, the Chief Minister said.
Since the case would be coming up in court in the next two days, all political parties could not be invited for the discussion, he said, adding that only the important parties have been called.