Day-long stir to be held against Sterlite plant

Chennai, April 6 (IANS) A day-long general strike demanding permanent closure of the copper smelter plant of Sterlite Industries (India) Ltd will be held Monday at Tuticorin, said MDMK party general secretary Vaiko Saturday.

The company is part of Britain-based Vedanta Resources Group.

In a statement issued here, MDMK founder Vaiko said the anti-Sterlite movement has called for a one-day general strike demanding the permanent closure of the copper smelter plant at Tuticorin, around 600 km from here.

“The protest against the plant is continuing in order to prevent the occurrence of another ‘Bhopal Gas’ tragedy in Tuticorin,” Vaiko said.

According to him, the copper concentrate imported by Sterlite from Australia has dangerous and poisonous elements like uranium and arsenic, among other toxic substances.

Vaiko said the Maharashtra government cancelled the licence to Sterlite’s copper smelter plant after the people of Ratnagiri district demolished the company’s office there. The governments of Gujarat and Goa did not allow the smelter plant.

He said the Supreme Court, while setting aside the 2010 Madras High Court order to shut down the copper smelter plant, has said the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) has the power to pass appropriate orders in connection with the plant.

On March 30, the TNPCB ordered the closure after sulphur-di-oxide leaked from the plant March 23, affecting a large number of residents of Tuticorin.

Sterlite has gone on appeal against the closure order at the National Green Tribunal.

The Supreme Court April 2, setting aside the Madras High Court order, allowed Sterlite’s copper smelting plant to continue operations, but asked it to deposit Rs.100 crore with the authorities to restore the environmental damage caused from 1997 to 2012.

Pointing to the various violations of environmental norms, the court said: “For such damages caused to the environment from 1997 to 2012 and for operating the plant without a valid renewal (of licence) for a fairly long period, the appellant-company obviously is liable to compensate by paying damages.”

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