In a major development, the three-member committee told the National Green Tribunal on Wednesday that the order of the Tamil Nadu government closing down the Sterlite copper unit in Thoothukudi was not sustainable and the ground mentioned in it was “not that grievous to justify permanent closure of the factory”.
The report of the three-member committee was received by the bench headed by Chairperson Justice AK Goel which opened it today.
“On the basis of the site visit, public hearing and after hearing the appellant Company, State of Tamil Nadu, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, and the interveners and, upon consideration of the issues raised, the Committee is of the opinion: The impugned orders cannot be sustained as it is against the principles of natural justice.
“No notice or opportunity of hearing was given to the appellant. The grounds mentioned in the impugned orders are not that grievous to justify permanent closure of the factory. Other issues raised also does not justify the closure of the factory even if the appellant was found to be violating the conditions/ norms/ directions,” said the committee in its report.
The committee also listed 25 directions to be issued in case the tribunal arrives at an opinion that the factory should commence production which includes directing Vedanta to “monitor groundwater quality including heavy metals such as Arsenic, Cadmium, Silver, Copper, Fluoride, etc. in and around the factory premises and nearby villages once a month” and furnish the report to the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board.
Some of the other directions included removal of copper slag dumped at all the 11 sites, including the Uppar River. “If copper slag has been used for landfill purposes, then the excess amount of the slag over and above the level of ground would be removed and thereafter the landfill should be compacted with one foot of soil, so that the copper slag is not blown away by the strong winds,” it said.
“The appellant company should be directed that they shall develop a green belt of 25 metres width around the battery limits of its factory by planting native and high foliage tree and also in and around the factory,” the committee suggested.
It also suggested that the State of Tamil Nadu/ TNPCB should collect data from their primary health centres and government hospitals to monitor the various ailments that are being complaint of by the inhabitants living in and around the factory premises and the state government should specify the module to the appellant for conducting the proper and designed health monitoring study.
The tribunal has now asked all parties concerned to file their submissions with respect to the report within one week. The matter is now listed for December 7.
Read the Order Here