NGT orders reopening of Vedanta Sterlite copper smelter plant, Tamil Nadu govt to move SC

The National Green Tribunal (NGT) on December 15 has ordered the reopening of Vedanta owned Sterlite copper smelter plant in Tamil Nadu’s Thoothukudi, months after the state government ordered closing down of the factory over alleged pollution that led to violent protests and culminated in police opening fire on demonstrators and killing 13 people.

Environment minister K.C. Karuppanan said the Tamil Nadu government will move the Supreme Court against the NGT’s final order.

The NGT has also directed the state pollution control board to renew a key license, Consent to Operate and remove other hurdles subject to fulfillment of certain conditions, “subject to appropriate conditions for the protection of the environment in accordance with law within three weeks from today,” NGT added.

NGT order reads, “If anything was still required to be done in that regard by the appellant[Sterlite Copper], this could not be a ground for rejecting consent for renewal or for closing the unit without an opportunity of hearing to the appellant. Even if there is a technical breach as contended on behalf of the respondents, the breach is trivial in nature causing no prejudice to anyone.”

NGT added, “The appellant will also be entitled to restoration of electricity for its operations.”

NGT termed the closure “unjustifiable” and directed Vedanta to spend Rs 100 crore over the next three years for Thoothukudi’s “welfare activities.”

Sterlite Copper had moved the NGT well over a month after the closure order by Tamil Nadu in May this year.