Sterlite plant: Tamil Nadu asked to reply on environment report

July 18th, 2011 - 10:05 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, July 18 (IANS) The Supreme Court Monday asked the Tamil Nadu government and the state pollution control board to respond to an environment impact assessment of Vedanta group subsidiary Sterlite Industries’ copper smelting plant in Tuticorin.

An apex court bench of Justice R.V. Raveendran and Justice A.K. Patnaik asked the state government and its pollution control agency to file their reply to the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) report by Aug 5. The court also asked Sterlite Industries to file its reply to the state government by Aug 10, when the matter would be taken up for final hearing.

The court sought the response from the state government and the pollution control board so that it could have a clear view of the ground situation existing at the plant and the adjoining areas.

Appearing for Sterlite Industries, senior counsel C.A. Sundram told the court that NEERI has given its report after taking samples from the plant. “It has made certain recommendations and we are willing to implement it,” the senior counsel said.

MDMK leader Vaiko, who is a party to the case, objected to the NEERI report saying that the plant was within 25 km of an ecologically sensitive zone and National Marine Park.

Vaiko said that the copper smelting plant should be 25 km away from the coastal areas, and thus the Sterlite plant could not be allowed to continue. He said that arsenic level in the area was more than the permissible level. The MDMK leader said that objection to that affect has already been filed with the court.

As Vaiko opposed NEERI’s environmental assessment report, Sundaram accused Vaiko of creating hurdles when the NEERI team was carrying out its environmental assessment.

Sundaram wondered why the MDMK leader was gunning for the Sterlite’s copper smelting plant when there were several other industries including a thermal power plant operating in the area.

It may be recalled during the hearing of the matter on Feb 25, 2011, the apex court had asked the NEERI to carry out a detailed inspection by going into all aspects of pollution allegedly being created by the Tuticorn-based copper smelting plant.

The bench was hearing a petition filed by Sterlite Industries challenging the Madras High Court order of Sep 28, 2010 directing the closure of its smelting plant for non-compliance of environmental norms. Supreme Court had stayed that order on Oct 1, 2010.

Sterlite Industries imports copper for its plant from Australia which is smelted in Tamil Nadu for further use.

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