Expert committee to inspect Sterlite smelter plant

Chennai, April 12 (IANS) The National Green Tribunal Friday said an expert panel will be formed to inspect the systems of the Sterlite Industries (India) Ltd’s copper smelter plant that was ordered closed by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) last month, a lawyer said.

Hearing the appeal filed by Sterlite Industries against the TNPCB’s order, the tribunal said a four-member expert committee will be set up to inspect the plant.

“The tribunal said the company will run the plant only for the test purposes and not for commercial production,” D. Nagasaila, counsel for Fathima Babu, one of the respondents in the case, told IANS.

She said the next hearing of the case has been fixed for April 18 when the Tribunal would announce the committee and its members.

The committee after inspecting the plant will submit its report by April 29, Nagasaila said.

On March 30, the TNPCB ordered closure of the 400,000-tonne per annum smelter plant after sulphur-di-oxide leaked from the plant March 23, affecting a large number of residents of Tuticorin, where the plant is located.

Sterlite has appealed against the closure order before the tribunal.

The Supreme Court April 2, setting aside an earlier 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.”

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

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