TN forms body to oversee oxygen production at Sterlite

TN constitutes monitoring committee to oversee oxygen production at Sterlite Copper plant

It will also engage with the residents of the area so as to redress any legitimate concerns in regard to the nature or modalities for operating the oxygen plant

The main gate of the Sterlite Copper plant in Thoothukudi. Credit: Reuters File Photo

The Tamil Nadu government on Friday constituted a seven-member monitoring committee headed by the district collector to “oversee proper functioning” of the oxygen plants at the Sterlite Copper smelter in Thoothukudi in compliance with an order of the Supreme Court.

The committee headed by K Senthil Raj, currently the Thoothukudi collector, will have the Superintendent of Police, Sub-collector, district environmental engineer of Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, Deputy Chief Chemist of the Thoothukudi Thermal Power Station, and two environmental experts to be suggested by locals.

The order comes four days after Supreme Court allowed the reopening of two oxygen plants inside the Sterlite Copper factory, closed since mid-March 2018, for a limited period for producing oxygen to meet the growing needs in view of the Covid-19 second wave.

Read | Under DMK rule, Sterlite plant will be sealed after the temporary period is over: Stalin

The order came after the Tamil Nadu government held an all-party meeting on April 26 in which it was resolved to allow operation of the oxygen plants after Sterlite Copper promised to generate 1,000 tonnes of oxygen a day for four months.

The order issued by Sandeep Saxena, Additional Chief Secretary, Department of Environment and Forests, Tamil Nadu government, said the oxygen plant will be run by Vedanta Industries Limited as per directions to be issued by the monitoring committee and in compliance with environmental and safety norms.

Saxena said the committee will oversee the proper functioning of the oxygen plant in compliance with court directions, and decide on the number of persons to be permitted within the premises of the plant for the purpose only of managing and conducting the oxygen production facility.

Also Read | Will only produce medical oxygen: Sterlite Copper

The committee will also engage with the residents of the area so as to redress any legitimate concerns in regard to the nature or modalities for operating the oxygen plant on a stand-alone basis. The committee will also conduct a safety audit before the commencement of operations and issue suitable directions to ensure the safety of operations.

The Additional CS also asked the district collector to send a fortnightly report in this regard to the government. However, the government's order has not gone down well with the locals and activists who want the state government to run the plant instead of handing it over to Vedanta.

Families of 13 persons who were killed in the police firing on May 22, 2018 had met the district collector on Thursday asking him not to allow Sterlite Copper access to the plant.

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