In a blow to the Tamil Nadu government and Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) and a major win for Vedanta, the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) principal bench in New Delhi has said that the company’s copper smelter in Tuticorin should commence operations.
In a blow to the Tamil Nadu government and Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) and a major win for Vedanta, the National Green Tribunal’s (NGT) principal bench in New Delhi has said that the company’s copper smelter in Tuticorin should commence operations. The tribunal, however, has issued some 25 directions which the smelter should follow.
The tribunal in its order dated November 28 said, “This appeal has been preferred against the order of Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) under Section 33A of the Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974, directing sealing of premises of the appellant.” The NGT’s order was basis the report of the committee dated November 20, 2018, constituted by the tribunal.
The operative part of the report submitted in the tribunal said, “The impugned orders cannot be sustained as it is against the principles of natural justice. No notice or opportunity of hearing was given to the appellant. The grounds mentioned in the impugned orders are not that grievous to justify permanent closure of the factory. Other issues raised also does not justify the closure of the factory even if the appellant was found to be violating the conditions/norms/ directions”.
The committee’s opinion is basis the site visit, public hearing and after hearing the appellant company, state of Tamil Nadu, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, and the interveners and, upon consideration of the issues raised, the order said. “In the event the Hon’ble Tribunal is of the opinion that the factory should commence production, the committee is of the opinion that the following directions may be issued,” the order said.
Vedanta’s Tuticorin plant in Tamil Nadu has been closed since May after 13 people were killed in a police firing during protests against the plant on allegations of it causing health and environmental issues. The directions issued to Vedanta include, monitoring of ground water quality including heavy metals such as arsenic, cadmium, silver, copper, fluoride, etc in and around the factory premises and nearby villages once a month and such report should be furnished to the TNPCB, such sampling should be taken in presence of a TNPCB official, in addition, the sampling of effluent/emission and solid waste should also be done by a monitoring group to be constituted by TNPCB comprising a representative of the district collector, an official of TNPCB, NGOs and academicians, copper slag dumped at all the eleven sites including the Uppar river should be removed, among others.
The NGT further said in the order that the interveners would be at liberty only to assist the state counsel and not to individual hearing. However, it will be open to the parties to file any submissions with respect to the report or otherwise, within one week and also that the parties may exchange their respective submissions.
Earlier, hearing the matter, on August 9, NGT had issued certain directions, pending information from the TNPCB. The directions included that TNPCB will not dispose of the material and the representative of the appellant will be entitled to access the administrative section but not the production unit.
Later, on August 20, the matter was further considered in the light of the report of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) on the issue of disposal of the material. The tribunal had observed that in substitution of the impugned orders, the matter should be considered afresh by a committee constituted by the tribunal, subject to further orders of the tribunal.
The tribunal had allowed the committee to hear the interveners, visit the site, consider the technical data and take an appropriate decision. Recommendations of the CPCB were directed to be carried out under supervision of the committee of representatives of CPCB and the ministry of environment, forest and climate change (MoEF & CC).