TNPCB Orders Shut Down Of Sterlite Copper Plant In Thoothukudi, Cuts Off Power Supply

The Logical Indian Crew

May 24th, 2018

Image Credit: Tamil Samayam, Rediff

In the wake of the death of 12 protesters and the deteriorating law and order situation in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) has ordered the closure of Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper Smelting Unit with immediate effect. Reports say that power supply to the unit was also cut off on Thursday morning.

The pollution board chairman Nasimuddin passed the order for the closure of the plant on Wednesday evening, and the power supply was cut off at 5:15 am on Thursday morning, as reported by The Hindu.

This decision came after an inspection was conducted by Joint Chief Environmental Engineer on May 18-19 and it was found that the unit was carrying out activities to resume its production.

“In the light of the above said facts it is decided, that in exercise of the power conferred under Section 33A of Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1974 as amended and under Section 31A of Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act, 1981 as amended, to issue directions for closure and disconnection of power supply to the unit,” the order reads.

The copy of the order was marked to Associate Vice President of Vedanta and also to the district collector.

Last two days

On May 22, 2018, a massive protest against the Sterlite Copper Smelting plant resulted in the death of 11 protesters and many others were injured. In fresh firing yesterday, another protester was killed. Internet services have been suspended in Thoothukudi, Tirunelveli and Kanyakumari for the next five days to stop anti-social elements from spreading false information during these volatile times.

The State government also replaced Thoothukudi Collector N. Venkatesh and Superintendent of Police P. Mahendran with Sandeep Nanduri and Murali Rambha respectively. Prohibitory orders under Section 144 of Cr.P.C has been extended until May 25. Police have also arrested 67 protesters for damaging government buildings and destroying 127 vehicles.

The suffering of Thoothukudi residents

The protest gained massive response this year as Sterlite was planning to double its capacity and expand in the view of their 25 years contract coming to an end. The locals have been demanding a closure of the copper smelting unit due to the pollution it causes and the health hazard it poses.

Over 4.6 lakh people live in eight census towns and 27 villages within a 10-km radius of the plant. For decades, activists in the area have been accusing Sterlite of contaminating the water resources and for also causing air pollution. Many villagers alleged that pollutants from the Sterlite factory were causing breathing disorders, skin diseases, heart conditions among other health problems. “It starts with throat irritation, then breathing difficulties and asthma, then we get fits and wheezing,” said Maheshwari, a 35-year-old resident, reported Scroll.

Speaking to Scroll, another resident, Baby said: “We could taste the pollutants in the water.” They have completely stopped using the groundwater, they claim. “We cannot even rinse our mouths with the water anymore.”

In 2013, people complained that they were facing difficulties to breathe, nausea, throat infection and alleged a gas leak from Sterlite Industries plant. The plant was ordered to be closed for a while after the allegations, by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board but later the National Green Tribunal let the plant reopen.

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