Tuticorin: It’s not the first time that the Sterlite Industries, a unit of London-based Vedanta Resources is in news for the wrong reason. As many as eleven people were killed by gunshots just because they were protesting against the expansion of Sterlite Copper’s industrial unit Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu. Citizens protesting for their rights are being shot dead without hesitation, there’s truly something seriously wrong with the country. the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board refused to renew its application to extend the Consent to Operate (CTO) the plant.
The plant employs 4,000 and supports thousands of more jobs indirectly. But since opening in 1996 it has split this coastal city between residents who say it is crucial for the local economy and farmers and fishermen who see it as a health hazard.
This came to light in early April this year through a letter written by Vedanta the parent firm of Sterlite to the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) and the National Stock Exchange (NSE), informing them about the rejection of the application under Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) guidelines.
How the Sterlite industry is polluting the water bodies:
Dumping of Copper Slag in the river
The board has accused Sterlite of dumping copper slag (it is a by-product of copper extraction by smelting) along the Uppar river and obstructing the flow of the river. This has allegedly caused flooding in residential areas nearby. Reports suggest that the firm didn’t construct a physical barrier between the Uppar and a landfill and this has allowed slag to reach the river.
Hundreds of families in the region were affected due to flooding in the Uppar stream in 2015. On July 28, 2016, in a review meeting chaired by then Thoothukudi collector M Ravikumar residents reportedly blamed the copper slag on the banks of the river for their distress.
According to a show cause notice given by TNPCB to Sterlite, 3.52 lakh tons of copper slag was found dumped on the site of the water body during the inspection.
The pollution caused by the smelter to the groundwater in the vicinity is not recorded. Sterlite, according to the board, has not furnished reports of groundwater analysis of borewells near the site.
Sterlite allegedly generates and disposes hazardous wastes without valid authorisation.
In addition to failing to provide data on ground water, the copper smelter has also not conducted studies to understand the arsenic content it may be generating. There is no analysis of arsenic content in the ambient air nor is there a gypsum pond constructed.
Sterlite’s counsel, according to reports, has orally stated that some of the grounds have been complied with for the CTO. It has further claimed that authorisation for hazardous waste disposal in pending with the TNPCB.