NGT paves way for re-opening of Vedanta Sterlite Copper Plant at Thoothukudi [Read Order]

NGT paves way for re-opening of Vedanta Sterlite Copper Plant at Thoothukudi [Read Order]

Meera Emmanuel

The Principal Bench of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) has allowed Vedanta’s appeal against the closure of its Sterlite Copper Plant at Thoothukodi, finding that the closure orders by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) were disproportionate for the cited environmental violations.

A Bench comprising Chairperson AK Goel and members Raghuvendra S Rathore, KR Ramakrishnan, Satyawan Singh Garbyal and Nagin Nanda issued an order to this effect yesterday, finding that,

The grounds in the impugned [closure] orders can hardly be sustainable to justify the impugned orders.”

Vedanta had approached the tribunal against closure orders passed by the TNPCB earlier this year citing environmental law violations. The first of such orders was passed in April while rejecting an application filed by Vedanta to renew the consent for operations at its Sterlite Plant.

This happened in the backdrop of an agitation by inhabitants of Thoothukudi against the proposed expansion of the Sterlite Copper Plant. The mounting protests eventually culminated in the police opening fire on unarmed civilians, leading to thirteen fatalities.

The following day, the TNPCB issued another order directing the closure of the Sterlite plant. The decision was endorsed by the Tamil Nadu Government within a week.

The closure orders have now been quashed by the NGT, which has also directed the TNPCB to pass a fresh order of renewal of consent to Vedanta.

The order was passed after the submission of a report by an inspection committee headed by retired Chief Justice of the Meghalaya High Court, Tarun Agarwala. The committee had submitted before the NGT that the closure of the Sterlite Copper Plant was not necessary. It also recommended that Vedanta follow certain measures aimed at better monitoring of environmental parameters and improved functionality of the Sterlite Copper Plant.

The Committee had listed twenty-five such measures, out of which Vedanta undertook to comply with eight. As regards some of the remaining measures, the Tribunal recorded they have to be considered by a Joint Committee of the Tamil Nadu and Central Pollution Control Boards. The Pollution Control authorities have also been directed to revise the parameters of Total Dissolved Solids (TDS), keeping in view the prevailing high TDS in the area, for regulating the discharge of industrial effluents.

Apart from the inspection committee’s analysis, the NGT drew an independent conclusion that each of the grounds cited by the Tamil Nadu authorities did not warrant the closure of the Sterlite plant. The following were the grounds cited by the TNPCB while rejecting Vedanta’s application for renewing consent to carry on operations in its copper plant.

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