CHENNAI: The Centre’s report on the groundwater quality in Thoothukudi that the Sterlite copper smelting plant alone cannot be blamed for the high pollution levels of groundwater in the area was challenged by the State government in the Madras High Court on Tuesday.
“The report, released by the Central Ground Water Board, is incorrect and unwarranted at this stage. It manifests clearly the mala fide intention of the Board in supporting the case of the Sterlite Industry,” said the principal secretary to the State Environment and Forest department.
Admitting the plea, a division bench headed by Justice R Subbiah ordered notice to the Union Ministry of Water Resources and the Central Ground Water Board, returnable by two weeks.
According to the petitioner, the board released a report titled ‘Report on Short-Term Investigation of Groundwater Quality in and Around SIPCOT Industrial Area, Thoothukudi.’ It was communicated by the Union Ministry of Water Resources to the State through amemorandum dated August 28.
The report claimed that the assessment of the quality of groundwater in and around SIPCOT area in Thoothukudi has been carried out by the Board based on 30 samples collected from various borewells and wells dug in various villages in and around the SIPCOT industrial area.
A request had also been made to the TN government to take appropriate action, the petitioner said, adding, “The said exercise was carried out by the Board in June, 2018 without notice or information to the district administration and the other line departments such as the TN Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) and even the district environmental engineer’s office of the TNPCB.”
The investigating team could not enter the premises of the Sterlite unit to take samples since the district authorities had sealed the factory following a government order to close down the plant permanently, he said.
This apart, the TNPCB has been monitoring the quality of groundwater based on samples collected from eight locations around the Sterlite plant. The results revealed that the level of pollution has risen to very high levels. Other parameters like sulphate, fluoride, calcium and magnesium iron level are exceeding the drinking water standards of IS 10500-2012, the state added.