CHENNAI: With Tamil Nadu’s political executive remaining committed to keeping Vedanta’s Sterlite copper smelter plant in Thoothukudi shut despite unfavourable court orders, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) has decided not to renew the plant’s Consent to Operate (CTO). Instead, the pollution control board plans to ask Sterlite to submit a compliance report under the Air and Water Acts.
A formal communication to this effect will be sent to Sterlite in the next few days. This means the company will have to shelve its plans to reopen the plant for a little longer.
Besides asking for status on compliance regarding slag removal and some of the other ‘manageable’ conditions in the National Green Tribunal (NGT) order, which was subsisted by Supreme Court, the TNPCB is also likely to rake-up alleged violations in land availability and land use classification.
After the Supreme Court refused to stay the NGT order, which allowed reopening of the smelter plant, Sterlite filed a fresh application seeking a renewal of CTO on January 10. However, the pollution control board has not replied yet.
When contacted, TNPCB chairman Shambu Kallolikar told Express that the board was still examining Sterlite’s request and would respond to it in the next few days. “We will seek a compliance report first pertaining to certain consent violations, exercising our statutory powers under the Air and Water Act. After receiving the compliance report, we will take a decision on renewing the Consent To Operate,” Kallolikar said.
In Thoothukudi, there remains a section of society opposed to the reopening of the copper smelter.
IN an affidavit filed by TNPCB before Madurai Bench of Madras High Court, in response to a writ petition filed by A Prince Cardozo, the board questioned the location of the plant. “The July 7, 1974 government order prescribes what sort of industry must be located in the designated land use as prescribed in the Master Plan.
As per the GO, ‘all uses involving storage, handling, manufacturing or processing, which involves highly corrosive, toxic or noxious alkalis, acids or corrosive gases’ are permissible in “Special and Hazardous Industrial Zone”. M/s Vedanta Limited, Sterlite Copper is located in S.Nos. 1 to 7, 1220 to 1225, which are classified as General Industrial by the Local Planning Authority for Thoothukudi (DTCP). Thus, it is evident that the industry is not located in Special and Hazardous Industrial Zone, as per the Master Plan for Thoothukudi.”
The board also accused Sterlite of misrepresentation of facts and termed it a “gross violation by the unit”.
Facts not suppressed: Sterlite
Replying to the same petition filed by A Prince Cardozo, Satyapriya of Sterlite claimed that the allegation about land use classification was baseless. “SIPCOT is an industrial complex wherein several red category industries are located. DTCP is the relevant authority to decide the land use classification, the layout approval and master plan. DTCP accorded consent for construction of the unit in 1995. In 2014, SIPCOT clarified to DTCP that layout was already approved and allotted for red category industries. Further, the master plan also clearly indicates that it falls under industrial category.”
Pertaining to land availability, Sterlite acknowledged that smelter plant-1 facilities were located in 102.36 hectares, but claimed there was no suppression of facts with respect to land details.
“The additional land is for utilisation of future greenery development, solid waste storage and for other future proposals,” Satyapriya said.