The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board has ordered the closure of the Sterlite Copper Smelter plant at Thoothukudi with immediate effect, and has directed Tangedco to disconnect electricity supply to the unit. It issued the order on Wednesday, and subsequently power supply was disconnected this morning, said sources.
The decision comes two days after 15 people were killed in police firing on anti-Sterlite protesters.
The Board said the company’s application in February for Renewal of Consent for 2018-2023 was rejected due to its failure to comply with the conditions imposed at the time of the previous renewal of consent order.
However, during inspection by the Joint Chief Environmental Engineer, Tirunelveli, on May 18 and 19, it was found that the unit was working to resume production operations. Based on his recommendation, the unit was asked to be closed, and power supply to be disconnected, the Board said.
Vedanta voices concern
In his first reaction to the Thoothukudi violence, Anil Agarwal, Executive Chairman, Vedanta Resources Plc., said, “I am very sad to hear (of) the incident. This was absolutely unfortunate.”
In a video broadcast in Twitter, Agarwal said the plant was now in its annual shutdown. “We are waiting for clearance from the court and the government to restart the plant. We are strictly following the court and the government orders... I am committed to the community, and with their wishes, we would like to continue this business. I am committed to the environment and the development of the people of Tuticorin and Tamil Nadu, and will abide by the law.”
Meanwhile, Tirunelveli Collector Sandeep Nanduri took over as Thoothikudi Collector, replacing N Venkatesh, according to a State Government announcement on Wednesday evening.
On Twitter, Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami defended the police action against the protesters. “Some anti-social elements intruded into the agitation (against the Sterlite plant) on May 22 and attacked the police and torched police vehicles. Facing a tense situation, the police resorted to firing, which was not planned. When someone hits you, you tend to defend yourselves. In such situations, no one acts in a planned manner,” he said.
Palaniswami further said that Opposition parties were instigating innocent people to agitate. Government authorities at Thoothukudi met the agitators 14 times, and the State government has been taking steps to close down the Sterlite plant through legal means, he said.
On Thursday morning, there was high drama when DMK working president MK Stalin was evicted from the Secretariat premises and detained for staging a dharna outside the Chief Minister’s office demanding a discussion on the Thoothukudi violence.
“The Tamil Nadu government has been unable to give answers to the Thoothukudi massacre. We will ensure the protesters’ and people’s voices are heard in Chennai. Our fight against this incompetent government will not stop till the resignations of the CM and the DGP,” Stalin said in a tweet.
In response, Palaniswami tweeted, “It was a planned move by the DMK to protest outside my office. The claim that Stalin did not get an appointment to meet me is false.”
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh said his Ministry had sought a report from the State government on the situation.