In a point-by-point rebuttal of the government counter, Sterlite’s General Manager (legal), on citing the May 28, 2018 permanent closure order, submitted that it is unfortunate that the State is taking an adversarial position and is not considering the representations from more than 1.55 lakh people supporting the opening and restarting of the unit.
Also, denying the contention that Sterlite has been chronically non-compliant with statutory conditions and has merely feigned compliance in a cursory manner at best, the rejoinder said, “Sterlite has spent over 500 crores in the last ten years in raising the environmental performance at a par with global smelters.” In fact, the inspection reports dated March 18, 2016, September 6, 2017 and February 27, 2018 furnished by the Joint Chief Environmental Engineer of TNPCB for the three consecutive years preceding the impugned orders of closure would show that there were no complaints received against Sterlite, the rejoinder said. It also noted that the closure of the plant on May 23, 2018 was neither emergent nor proportional but was more a bid to appease a section of the public after the incident of reported police firing in Thoothukudi on May 22, 2018.
The rejoinder also denied that there exists any empirical evidence to support the conclusion that the closure of Sterlite has led to the improvement of the environment.
On the contrary, Sterlite has submitted evidences to show that there has been no improvement either in the air or ground water quality, after its closure, the rejoinder said, while claiming that NEERI in its 2011 report had observed that there has been no environmental concern due to Sterlite’s operations on air and water quality.
“Sterlite unit has been contributing to the tune of Rs. 2000 to 2500 crores per annum to the State exchequer and has helped the State government through its regular contribution in the socio-economic upliftment of the communities around its plant. But the inimical approach of the State government towards Sterlite will destabilise the investments into the State,” the rejoinder added.