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Thoothukudi: Blow to Sterlite as NGT refuses to grant any interim relief

Counsel for Tamil Nadu argued that Vedanta’s plea was not maintainable as it had filed petitions seeking similar prayers in different fora.​

Published: 06th July 2018 03:59 AM  |   Last Updated: 06th July 2018 03:59 AM   |  A+A-

Sealed Sterlite copper smelter plant at Thoothukudi. (EPS | V Karthikalagu)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: The Delhi bench of the National Green Tribunal on Thursday refused to grant any interim relief to UK-based Vedanta Limited as it pleaded for limited access and power supply to carry out maintenance work at its Sterlite Copper plant in Thoothukudi.Counsel for Tamil Nadu argued that Vedanta’s plea was not maintainable as it had filed petitions seeking similar prayers in different fora.

A writ petition is pending before Madurai bench of Madras High Court and an appeal challenging the April 9 order of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB), wherein the board rejected the application for Consent to Operate, is pending before TNPCB Appellate Authority. “The tribunal has allowed us to file counter before the next hearing slated for July 18,” Rakesh Sharma, standing counsel for TN in the NGT, told Express.  

In its plea, Vedanta requested the tribunal to direct TNPCB to restore and provide minimum power supply, water and manpower access for safeguarding emergency systems of the plant as it houses chemicals, resins and fuels, which pose a threat to the surroundings and the plant.

Vedanta has filed an additional appeal challenging the latest order of the Thoothukudi District Collector directing Sterlite to remove all raw materials and chemicals from its unit. The appeal says the company was shocked to see some of the directions given. The Collector’s order says, among other things, 4.5 lakh tonnes of gypsum stocked in the unit should be removed within 90 days, the fifth secured landfill should be capped within three days and gypsum water should be neutralised immediately. 

In response, Vedanta said the directions were ‘unreasonable’ and ‘impractical’. Gypsum is already solidified and has, in fact, been classified by the TNPCB itself as “dead stock”. It is further submitted that there was absolutely no market for gypsum, which the TNPCB has itself recognised as being incapable of being sold, and therefore, this direction to remove all gypsum from the unit was impossible to comply with. Also, capping secured landfill would take nothing less than one year as imported liners are required and an expert has to be engaged to neutralise gypsum water. The copper smelter, which has a capacity of four lakh tonnes a year and accounts for over a third of the India’s consumption of refined copper, has been shut since March 27.

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