The Tamil Nadu government on May 28 sealed Sterlite Copper smelter unit in Thoothukudi and ordered permanent closure of the same. The Tamil Nadu Environment and Forests Department issued a two-page Government Order for its “permanent” closure.
Group owner Vedanta has termed the decision “unfortunate.”
“The plant is permanently sealed. There is no more confusion. I request the people of Thoothukudi to cooperate with the district administration to bring normalcy back in the district,” said Thoothukudi Collector Sandeep Nanduri.
The order further states, “Under Sections 18(1)(b) of the Water Act 1974, in the larger public interest, the government endorse the closure direction of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) and also direct the TNPCB to seal the unit and close the plant permanently.”
The unit has 3,500 employees, including 2,500 workers on contract. The government’s decision came in the backdrop of the killing of 13 protestors in police shooting during an agitation demanding the closure of the plant a week ago.
“Closure of Sterlite Copper plant is an unfortunate development, especially since we have operated the plant for over 22 years in a most transparent and sustainable way, we will study the order and decide on the future course of action,” the Vedanta Group said.
Chief Minister Edappadi K. Palaniswami held a meeting of his party legislators at the AIADMK headquarters in Chennai and said that he met cross-section of traders, fishermen and the church for over an hour, along with Deputy Chief Minister O. Panneerselvam and other ministers. The representatives conveyed that “the closure of the plant is the demand of all [in the area].”
“We have taken this decision, as a mark of respecting the feelings of the people. We are doing what, we consider, is good for the people,” he said.
Ramnath Sterlite, CEO Copper plant, claimed that the company was responsible for generating indirect employment for an estimated 30,000-40,000 people.
Opposition parties hailed the government’s decision.