Madras HC orders closure of Sterlite`s copper smelting unit

The Madras High Court on Tuesday ordered closure of Vedanta Group Company Sterlite Industries` copper smelting plant at Tuticorin.

Updated: Sep 28, 2010, 22:20 PM IST

Chennai: The Madras High Court on Tuesday ordered closure of Vedanta Group Company Sterlite Industries` copper smelting plant at Tuticorin after noting that the company has failed to comply with environmental issues.

A Division Bench of Justices Elipe Dharmaro and N Paul Vasanthakumar held that the plant was within 25 km of an ecologically fragile area and the company has failed to
develop a green belt of 250 metre width around the plant.

The court in its order also directed the Tuticorin District Collector to take necessary steps for re-employment of the workforce in some other companies so as to protect their livelihood, to the extent possible, keeping in view their educational and technical qualifications and experience.

The order came a month after the Vedanta Group`s Rs 7,000 crore bauxite mining project at Niyamgiri hills in Orissa was denied environmental clearance. The company was also issued a show cause notice by the Ministry of Environment and Forests for allegedly flouting green norms.

"The materials on record show that the continuing air pollution being caused by the noxious effluents discharged into the air by the respondent company is having a more
devastating effect on the people living in the surroundings", the order said.

It was also seen that there has been unabated pollution by the respondent company, which should be stopped at least now by allowing these writ petitions so as to protect the Mother Nature from being `tarred`, the judges said.

The judges also noted that the plant was set up amid protests from people of different sections at Tuticorin and widespread agitations to stop its erection and subsequently
insisting on its closure. The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) had granted permission to Sterlite to run a unit to manufacture 391 MT of blister copper and 1,060 tonnes of sulphuric acid.

The court pointed out that no objection certificate was issued by TNPCB to the company on the condition that it would develop a green belt of 250 metre width around the `battery
limits` of the industry.

"But the company has submitted a representation to the TNPCB requesting to reduce the requirement of green belt from 250 metre to the width of 10-15 metre around the plant, since the development of the green belt of 250 meter width requires a land of around 150 acres," the bench said.

Accepting the company`s request, TNPCB relaxed the condition and required the company to develop the green belt in a minimum width of 25 metre, the bench noted.

PTI