In a major respite to Sterlite Industries Limited, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) in New Delhi, on Friday, allowed the restarting of its copper-smelting plant in Thoothukudi albeit with some riders.
The Principal Bench headed by Chairman Justice Swatanter Kumar granted the interim relief to the factory, which was issued closure orders by the State in March following alleged sulphur dioxide leak from its premises.
Sources told Express that the bench made it clear that the plant could be restarted only in the presence of a committee consisting of Member Secretaries of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) and the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and the two IIT professors who constituted the expert panel formed earlier by the Southern Bench to inspect the plant.
It is pertinent to note that the expert panel’s report gave a clean chit to the plant.
Meanwhile, sources said that the bench made critical remarks on the closure order of the TNPCB itself, calling it abrupt and lacking in scientific evidence.
In fact, the very pivot of the board’s argument for the closure, that there was excessive emissions on March 23 from the plant, was questioned by the bench, which said no scientific analysis had been placed before it to point to the same.
Further, there was also no indisputable evidence that the alleged gas leak was from Sterlite’s plant alone, given that the plant was located in an industrial area with numerous factories also located in the vicinity.
Also, the difference between the time of complaint and the actual time of the alleged gas leak did not correlate, the bench noted. In fact, the plant had been allowed to function for a full six days before the closure orders were issued.
However, TNPCB sources said this was only an interim order and it would place further evidences before the tribunal to strengthen the case before the final orders were passed.
The committee formed by the bench is expected to meet within a week’s time.
The case was transferred to the Principal Bench in New Delhi after the Southern Bench in Chennai recused itself from the case.
Reacting to the NGT order, MDMK leader Vaiko retaliated that “ I will continue my struggle.”