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Govt must initiate action to cleanse ‘threats’ fully at Sterlite copper plant, urge environmentalists
After getting a favourable verdict from the Madras High Court in the Sterlite case, environmentalists and activists have urged state government to be proactive in taking action against the copper plant.
“The role of state government does not stop with legal battle. A lot of work needs to done such as safe disposal of chemicals and dismantling of the entire unit,” Sundarrajan, from Poovulagin Nanbargal, told DT Next.
Ever since Sterlite set up its copper plant in Thoothukudi in mid-1990s, the unit had been facing stiff opposition from various section and protests by groups to shut it. MDMK led by its founder Vaiko was one of the major parties that had been fighting for the unit’s closure for over 25 years.
The 20-year struggle took a deadly turn in May 2018, when thousands participated in an agitation against the Sterlite during which 13 protesters were shot dead by police.
Following the protest, all sides mounted pressure on the government to shut down the copper plant. Though Sterlite waged a legal battle it failed as recently Madras High Court denied permission for Sterlite to resume operation.
“Lakhs of tonnes of slag and gypsum still remains inside the copper plant. Apart from that Sterlite had dumped huge quantities of slug and gypsum in water bodies in Thoothukudi district and they too have to be removed by the state government”, says environmentalist Nityanand Jayaraman.
He blamed the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board for failing to check the pollution caused by the Sterlite for more than 20 years. “In its recent judgment, the HC pointed out the mistakes of the TNPCB and its lacklustre attitude in checking pollution caused by industries,” said Nityanand Jayaram. Meanwhile, the verdict had renewed the demand that the state government should take a policy decision against allowing copper plants. “Ever since the closure of Sterlite Copper in 2018 people of Thoothukudi and activists across the state had been urging the state government to take a policy decision to not allow any copper smelting plants in Tamil Nadu. The state is yet to take a stand on the issue “, said V Gunaseelan, an AAP functionary and anti-sterlite activist in Thoothukudi. When asked why the state government was still dithering on the issue, Fisheries Minister D Jayakumar replied that by issuing orders to close the Sterlite unit and continuing the legal battle, the stand of the state government was clear that it would not allow any harmful industry on the soil of Tamil Nadu.