The National Green Tribunal has allowed three applicants to be impleaded as party in the petition filed by Vedanta Group’s Sterlite Industries (India) Ltd against the recent order of Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) to close down the company’s copper smelter plant in Tuticorin district after finding emissions of sulphur dioxide. The ppeal filed by Sterlite Industries has been posted for hearing on April 12, 2013.

The Southern Bench of the Tribunal, comprising of Justice M Chockalingam and expert member R Nagendran, today allowed the application of Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) General Secretary Vaiko. Two other more application, one by  Fatima Babu, an activist in Tuticorin an has been a leader of Anti-Sterlite People’s Committee and another one by National Trust for Clean Environment, were also allowed and has been added as the respondents to the petition filed by Sterlite Industries.

The TNPCB, District Collector and Superintending Engineer of Tamil Nadu Electricity Board (TNEB) are the existing respondents.

The Tribunal, further directed the District Collector to submit the entire file including the details of the investigation conducted on the alleged emission of sulphor dioxide in the early hours of March 23, 2013. The Tribunal said that it would like to know when the incedent took place, how many people were affected, the impact of the alleged leakage among other details, they said.

While admitting the applications, the Tribunal noted that Vaiko and the Trust were parties against Sterlite Industries in an earlier case in Supreme Court, which was ordered recently. The Trubunal today allowed time for the newly joined parties to file their counter before the next hearing.

Vaiko, in his application, said that the appeal is not maintanable and is liable to be rejected.

It may be noted that the Sterlite Industries has filed a petition at the National Green Tribunal against Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB’s) order to shut company’s copper smelter plant in Tuticorin district, Tamil Nadu, on April 1, 2013. The Petition was filed on the grounds stating that the company was not provided opportunity of being heard and the order was passed in haste.

The TNPCB issued an order on March 29, 2013, seeking the company to close down the plant. The Board officials said that since it has identified that there was sulphur dioxide emission and several people in the neighbourhood has experienced eye irritation among other disturbances and based on this the Board has asked the company to close down the plant. Following this, the factory was closed. The PCB has conducted inspection following a few public complaints of emission on March 23, 2013.

The company denied the allegations about the gas leakage. Closure of the plant for one day would lead to a loss of around Rs 5 crore for the company, said spokesperson of Sterlite Industries (India) Ltd. The facility has a capacity to manufacture 4 lakh tonne copper per annum and has a turnover of Rs 18,000 crore.

In its petition to the National Green Tribunal, it said that it employs 1,000 permanent workers and about 3,500 contract labourers besides indirectly providing indirect benefits to 15,000 people and they would be left in the lurch without remuneration if the Unit were to remain closed. The company exports copper to the extend of $2 billion from Tuticorin alone, it added.

Courtesy: Business Standard