Govt orders closure of Sterlite plant in TN

Govt orders closure of Sterlite plant in TN

Pushed to the wall, the Tamil Nadu government on Monday decided to permanently shut the controversial Sterlite Copper plant in Thoothukudi, protests against which claimed the lives of 13 people last week. DH photo

Exactly seven days after 13 people died in police firing during protests demanding closure of Sterlite copper plant, the Tamil Nadu government on Monday ordered permanent shutting down of the smelting unit owned by Vedanta Limited in the southern port city of Thoothukudi.

Pushed to the wall following massive public outrage after the deaths on Tuesday last, the AIADMK dispensation issued a Government Order to “seal the unit and close the plant permanently” after a high-level meeting chaired by Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami and attended by his deputy O Panneerselvam among others.

“Under sections, 18(1)(b) of the Water Act, 1974 in the larger public interest, the government endorses the closure direction of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board and also directs the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board to seal the unit and close the plant permanently,” the order signed by Md Nasimuddin, Principal Secretary, Environment and Forests Department, said.

The government’s action came a day before the Tamil Nadu Assembly’s budget session is set to reconvene after a long recess during which the Opposition parties had planned to put the dispensation on the mat. The action also came close on the heels of Palaniswami’s public statement last week that the government was moving towards closing down of the plant.

Last Tuesday’s police firing during the 6-km march from the city to the collectorate in Thoothukudi had killed 13 people and injured 102.

The city was under siege for many days and normalcy is just returning.

Within hours of the release of the order, Thoothukudi district collector Sandeep Nanduri and superintendent of police Murali Ramba oversaw the procedure of sealing the Sterlite plant
by Thoothukudi tashildar Sivagama Sundari. The lock on the main gate of the massive plant on the Madurai-Thoothukudi national highway that was covered in a white cloth was sealed and officials affixed the seal at around 6.30 pm after pasting the GO.

Before the GO was made public, Palaniswami released a statement announcing the closure of the plant following requests made by various groups from across the state.

The closure and subsequent sealing of the Rs 2,100-crore unit brings to a close, albeit for now, the 22-year-old long struggle of the people of the port city against the smelting unit. Locals have opposed the unit since its inception in 1996 alleging frequent noxious gas leaks and bad effluent management.

Unit's closure unfortunate: Vedanta

Vedanta Limited on Monday termed as "unfortunate development" the Tamil Nadu government's order closing the Sterlite Copper's smeltering unit in Thoothukudi permanently. 

"Closure of Sterlite Copper plant is an unfortunate development, especially since, we have operated the plant for over 22 years in most transparent and sustainable way, contributing to the Tuticorin and state’s socio-economic development," Vedanta Limited said in a statement.

"We will study the order and decide on the future course of action," the company said. It also sent a formal letter to the Bombay Stock Exchange informing of the Tamil Nadu government's decision.