History of Sterlite in Thoothukudi - An Overview

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History of Sterlite in Thoothukudi


History of Sterlite in Thoothukudi - An Overview

Sterlite Copper , Tuticorin Plant, is a business unit of Vedanta Ltd. It’s a subsidiary of London-based metals major Vedanta Resources Plc. Sterlite was allocated with 500 acres of land by Industrial Development Corporation to set up a 60,000 ton per annum copper smelter in the year 1992. The locals of the Ratnagiri protested against the construction of Sterlite , sensing the dreadful pollution hazards likely to be caused by the Smelter. The resident’s agitation pressurized the Maharashtra Government to put an end to the project.

An year later, in 1993, the same project which was rejected in Maharashtra was successfully executed in Tamil Nadu. A No Objection Certificate was issued by Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board on August 1, 1994. The construction works began in 1995 and the plant was constructed with in 14km of The Gulf of Mannar. The very first agitation from the local residents for constructing the smelter plant in a Biosphere reserve was suppressed by the police force.

Many complaints were raised by the residents near the plant shortly after the commissioning of the plant. Hazardous smoke was exhausted from the plant that resulted in headaches, vomiting, coughs etc. In 1997, workers at a manufacturing factory near the Tuticorin Sterlite plant choked and fainted because of a gas leak from the plant.

A study submitted by National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) on Pollution caused by Sterlite concluded that it was indulging in the production of products it was not authorized to produce. It has failed to fulfil several conditions said by TNPCB. And above all it was responsible for hurting people by the constant gas leaks. On November 23, 1998, the plant was closed for a week based on an order issued by the Madras High Court. A week later the court revised the order and the factory began to run.

Despite of all the issues, the factory never ceased to exhaust the harmful gas in open air thereby causing trouble to the locals. On March 2, 1999 workers of All India Radio also complained about the gas leaks from Sterlite. TNPCB came into action only to defended Sterlite and also approved permission to increase its production from 40,000 tonnes to 70,000 tonnes. The factory always had new ways for depleting the environment that they released hazardous and toxic waste water with the rain water during the heavy rains in December 2000 and January 2001. In a report submitted by TNPCB, the factory’s involvement in the unlicensed production was confirmed and the plant found to be consisting of several other production units.

A major gas leak occurred on March 23, 2013 that caused severe effects like suffocation, miscarriage, eye irritation , cough etc. On March 29th an order was issued to close the factory but Sterlite denied that those toxic gases might have been from other industries such as SPIC, TAC, Kilburn or Tuticorin Thermal. But TNPCB failed to prove the leak was from Sterlite and so the closure order had no effect.

In 2013, Supreme Court refused to shut down the factory stating “The plant of the appellants contributes substantially to the copper production in India and copper is used in defence, electricity, automobile, construction and infrastructure etc. The plant of the appellants has about 1,300 employees and it also provides employment to large number of people ..” It ordered the company to pay a fine of Rs. 100 crores expecting that amount to be a sufficient deterrent. Harmful pollutants such Arsenic, lead, iron, sulphur dioxide and acid gases that were released from the plant result in widespread pollution of water and of air with toxic dust particles. Most of the people in the surrounding areas suffer from cancer