CHENNAI : Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper on Friday contested the ‘polluter’ tag attached to it and said the concerns over alleged air pollution due to sulphur dioxide (SO2) emission from it smelter unit were far from truth. In its affidavit before the Principal Bench of National Green Tribunal, accessed by Express, Sterlite has disputed the observation made by the tribunal-appointed committee pertaining to chimney stack height.
The panel said: “Based on emission load basis standard of 2 kg of SO2 per tonne of sulphuric acid produced, the stack height would be 83.51 m. If load-basis standards at one kg is applied, then the stack height would be 67.83 m, whereas the present stack is 60.38 m, i.e. below prescribed limits.”The committee recommended that irrespective of the norms, stack height in any case be increased to remove ambiguity and the grievance of the people of Thoothukudi with regard to emission of SO2.
In response, Sterlite said Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) consent orders have always recorded the prescribed stack height as being 60.38 m. In fact, the lastly renewed consent order dated September 7, 2017, which was valid till March 31, 2018, also prescribed the stack height to 60.38 m. “Sterlite is in compliance with the said condition, with its stack height maintained at the said prescribed limit,” the affidavit says.
It also claimed that the SO2 emission has not increased since 1997, though the production has increased nearly four times. In 1997, 4,240 kg/day was emitted through single chimney of 60.38 m and in 2006, 4,200 kg/day is now being emitted from two chimneys at 2,100 kg/day as permitted by TNPCB.
“There has been no ‘net increase’ in SO2 pollution load even after increase in copper production from 391 MT/ day in 1997 to 1200 MT/ day in 2006 and the stack height is justified as per the consent condition issued by TNPCB,” Sterlite said and added that `150 crores was spent only for lowering the emissions from its plant operations and the actual emissions are much lower (to the tune of 0.1 or 0.2 Kg of SO2 /tonne of acid produced). The monitoring is through online analysers, all of them connected to Care Air Centre, TNPCB and CPCB.
Regarding green belt violation, Sterlite claimed that the issue was settled before Supreme Court and was unnecessarily re-agitated by interveners before the NGT committee. Besides, the committee has mistakenly concluded that enough green belt was not created based on NEERI report of May 2011 and not noticing the subsequent events.
“NEERI conducted another GPS survey in March 2012 and concluded that Sterlite has 30.55 hectares of green, including the additional area developed. TNPCB added specific conditions on July 12, 2012, to maintain 26 hectares of green belt within the premises to the width of 25 metres and to an extent of 25 per cent over the total area, which has been met,” Sterlite said.