The National Green Tribunal on Monday said an independent judicial committee would decide in about six weeks if Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper plant in Tamil Nadu’s Thoothukudi district should be allowed to reopen, reported Reuters.
The tribunal’s Chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel said a retired judge would head the committee and include representatives from Vedanta, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board, and the environment ministry. The tribunal said it would consult probable names before deciding on the committee head. The committee has to start work within two weeks, reported PTI. It also repeated its earlier order allowing Vedanta to access the plant’s administrative unit.
On May 28, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami ordered the permanent closure of the plant, days after 13 people were killed in police firing in the district during protests against the plant. In July, Vedanta moved the green tribunal, challenging the state government’s order.
The company called the closure order and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board’s refusal to renew its licence impugned and unlawful. It asked the principal bench of the tribunal to issue an interim stay so that the plant could continue operations pending appeal.
On August 14, the Madras High Court ordered the Central Bureau of Investigation to conduct an inquiry into the police’s decision to fire at protestors.
For more than two decades, activists in Thoothukudi accused Sterlite of contaminating the region’s air and water resources and causing breathing disorders, skin diseases, heart conditions and cancer. From February, there were large-scale protests against the company’s copper smelter, which had the capacity to produce 4.38 lakh tonnes of anodes per annum, or 1,200 tonnes per day.