WHO IS STERLITE? AND WHY PEOPLE ARE AGAINST IT?
Updated: Nov 10, 2020
R. Guru, B.A.,LL.B.
On May 22, 2018, Thoothukudi people conducted a protest to seal Sterlite Industry, to control the protest police started to fire, killing 12 people. On the very next day, another person was killed in the firing. Many socialites and media criticized the Tamil Nadu Government. On May 24, the Tamil Nadu Government sealed the Sterlite Industry. Then, the Sterlite Industry approached the National Green Tribunal (NGT), challenging the order of the state government. In August 2018, the NGT formed a committee to look into the issues. In December 2018, NGT held that the Sterlite Industry didn’t violate the environment, dismissed the state government’s order and allowed it to reopen the industry. The Tamil Nadu government approached the Supreme Court, challenging the order of the NGT. The court quashed the NGT’s order and also held that the tribunal didn’t have the jurisdiction to do so.
In June 2019, Sterlite Industry approached the Chennai High Court for interim relief on the matter, as advised by the Supreme Court. The High Court delivered their judgement about 815 pages on 18 August, having observed that the unit had violated environmental laws. Hence, the High Court orders to seal the industry and also dismissed the 10 writ petitions filed by the Vedanta to challenge the orders passed by the Tamil Nadu Government and the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board.
Then the Vedanta appealed to the Supreme Court to quash the Chennai High Court’s order and also allowed it to open the Sterlite Industry. On August 31, 2020, yesterday, the Supreme Court issued notice to Tamil Nadu Government to argue their side. Still, many people doubt that who is Sterlite? and why Thoothukudi people are conducting a protest against it?
Who is Sterlite?
Sterlite is a Copper Industry, producing 1200 tonne of copper per day, 4,00,000 tonne of copper per year. Sterlite Industry is run by Vedanta Ltd. at London, which is owned by Anil Agarwal. They are specialists in mining and refining non-ferrous metals- copper, zinc and aluminium.
Gujarat and Goa
The Vedanta Ltd. approached the Gujarat government to make their factory but the state government refused their request, as the industry will pollute their environment.
Then the Vedanta Ltd. approached the Goa government to set up a factory in their state. But the Goa government also refused to allow the land to them.
In 1992, Sterlite was allotted 500 acres of land by the Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation to set up a copper smelter. On July 15, 1993, the District Collector of Ratnagiri sent a notice to the Sterlite Industry to stop the construction work. Since a committee formed by the state government found that the industry is endangering the environment.
After the three state governments, Gujarat, Goa and Maharashtra have refused permission to Vedanta Ltd. to set up an industry, finally, the Vedanta Ltd. approached the Tamil Nadu Government to set up their industry. On August 1, 1994, the Tamil Nadu granted permission to Vedanta Ltd. to set up their industry and allotted 343 acres of land.
On August 20, 1997, the staff at Tamil Nadu Electricity Board’s sub-station, which is located across the Sterlite Industry, complained of headache, coughing and choking due to the gas leak from the industry.
On May 5, 1997, due to the gas leak from the industry, women workers at Ramesh Flowers, fell sick and fainted.
The National Trust for Clean Environment filed a case against the Sterlite Industry in the Chennai High Court. On November 23, 1998, the industry was closed due to polluting the environment based on the study conducted by the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI).
The very next week, on December 1, 1997, the Chennai High Court modified its earlier order and allowed the industry to run and asked the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) to conduct another study. On February 9, 1999, the NEERI submitted its second report and allowed the Sterlite to run.
The gas leak continued
On March 11, 1999, 11 workers at the All India Radio Station near the Sterlite were distressed and had to be hospitalized. On January 2, 2001, the people from Thoothukudi complained to Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) about the release of toxic wastewater from the Sterlite along with the rainwater.
On November 16, 2004, TNPCB submitted their report. It was said that the industry was engaged in unlicensed production. The industry produced 1,64,236 tonnes of copper in 2004, but the TNPCB only allowed 70,000 tonnes of copper per year.
On September 28, 2010, again the Chennai High Court ordered the Sterlite Industry to be closed. Likewise before, the closure was short-lived, on October 1, 2010, the Supreme Court stayed the Chennai High Court’s order and allowed the Sterlite Industry to run.
Till now due to a toxic gas leak from the industry three workers have died and several injured in eight hazardous incidents.