SC Refuses To Stay NGT Order Allowing Reopening Of Sterlite Plant

SC Refuses To Stay NGT Order Allowing  Reopening Of Sterlite Plant

The Supreme Court on Tuesday refused to stay the green tribunal's order of setting aside the Tamil Nadu government's decision to close Vedanta's Sterlite copper plant at Tuticorin.

A bench, headed by Justice R F Nariman, sought response from Vedanta on the state government's appeal against the National Green Tribunal's (NGT's) order to reopen the plant.

Tamil Nadu government filed the plea against the order of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) permitting mining giant Vedanta to access the administrative unit of its controversial Sterlite copper plant in Tuticorin.

The principal bench of the NGT in New Delhi, headed by Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, had observed that the company's representative will be entitled to enter into the Administrative section only, with the express direction that the District Magistrate will ensure the production unit is not accessed and no production is carried out.

Earlier, in April, the Tamil Nadu State Pollution Control Board (PCB) had declined to renew the plant's Consent to Operate certificate for failing to adhere to the prescribed conditions. Subsequently, the Forests and Environment Department of the state government had on May 28 directed the permanent closure of the plant.

On August 9, the attention of the bench was drawn to the groundwater analysis reports with respect to the unit of the appellant-company as well as the surrounding areas. It was submitted that the copper slag dumped alongside river Uppar has been secured by a wall and there is no chance of the slag reaching the river. It was further assured that the storing of the hazardous waste was on account of the unit being closed and that the appellant has no objection to removing the waste in accordance with the rules.

The bench was informed that the appellant is also prepared to have the parameters of heavy metals analysed from the appropriate laboratory and that The Gypsum pond, as required under the Central PCB guidelines, will be completed within nine months. In his turn, the Counsel for Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board had produced a photograph to show that the slag is on the bank of the river. He had also contended that the ground water reports quoted in the reply of the PCB back the conclusion that the unit is responsible for the higher Total Dissolve Solid (TDS) in the groundwater. However, when the aforesaid submissions of the state were disputed by the Appellant, the Tribunal had required the former to verify the TDS content in the effluents discharged by the Appellant and if the photographs relied on are recent, allowing Vedanta's access to the Administrative unit of the plant in the interim.

The NGT Chairperson bench had also directed the Central PCB to nominate a representative who will enter the unit and give a report on the next date as to how the material lying there is to be disposed of or maintained. The bench had also recorded the statement of the Counsel for the PCB that no material would be disposed of till the next date and that the representative of the appellant is already included in the Committee.