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‘Sterlite plant, a target of vested interests’

Our Bureau Chennai | Updated on June 26, 2019 Published on June 26, 2019

Vedanta Group says TN govt has chosen to ignore pollution by power plants

The Vedanta Group has denied that the Sterlite copper smelter in Thoothukudi has been a significant contributor to the water and air pollution in the area.

Sterlite has been a target of vested interests, which is evident from the fact that there has been surge in public demonstrations and complaints against the company after its expansion project was announced, the group said in a rejoinder to the counter-affidavit filed by the Tamil Nadu government in the Madras High Court.

The Madras High Court on March 1 admitted a petition filed by the Vedanta Group for re-opening the Sterlite facility, but declined to grant interim relief that would have given the company access to the plant for maintenance work. A Division Bench comprising Justices TS Sivagnanam and Bhavani Subbaroyan will be hearing the case, which is coming up on Thursday.

The Vedanta Group, in the rejoinder, said that Thoothukudi has power plants with the largest capacity (5,000 MW) in a single city within Tamil Nadu.

Hence, emissions of SOX (sulphur oxides), NOX (oxides of nitrogen), and RSPM (respirable suspended particulate matter) are relatively higher. This has led to huge human development concerns, which has been ignored by the State government even as it targeted the company with its prejudicial actions. The SO2 (sulphur dioxide) emissions from its copper smelter are not more than 1-2 per cent of the total SO2 emissions in Thoothukudi. It has denied that the significant pollutant marker levels have gone down after the closure of the plant.

There are conclusive evidences on the impact due to power plants, but the State government has chosen not to mention any of it for oblique reasons, Vedanta said.

‘Data not considered’

The data collected from the region surrounding the plant area show that agriculture has improved in the Ottapidaram taluk over the last few years, with the net sown area increasing from 29,030 hectares in 2003-04 to 36,315 hectares in 2009-10. The ground water in and around the unit has always had high levels of total dissolved solids, chlorides, sulphates and total hardness due to the site’s proximity to coastal aquifers. Hence, even before the copper smelter was set up, the water was unfit for domestic use.

The company has complied with all the directions of the National Green Tribunal in spite of the same being under appeal before the Supreme Court.

The Source Apportionment Study would have established the sources of pollution in Thoothukudi. The attitude of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board in not undertaking the study shows its lack of interest and it has blindly accused the company of polluting the environment, without even issuing a show-cause notice, Vedanta said.

Published on June 26, 2019
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