“Emission from Sterlite plant was above permissible level”


Chennai, April 16, 2013

Special Correspondent

A view of the Main entrance of Sterlite Industry in Tuticorin. The plant has been closed following an order by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board.
The Hindu Photo Library A view of the Main entrance of Sterlite Industry in Tuticorin. The plant has been closed following an order by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board.

People complained of eye irritation, constant cough: Minister

Emission of sulphur dioxide from the Sterlite factory in Tuticorin above the permissible level led to people complaining about the plant, Environment Minister M.C. Sampath told the Assembly on Tuesday.

Replying to a calling attention motion, the Minister said continuous monitoring of sulphur dioxide by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) had clearly proved increased emission of gas from the plant on March 23, 2013.

He said people from Meelavittan, Anna Nagar, Brian Nagar, George Road and Thivipuram had complained of irritation in eyes, constant cough and choked throat condition and made a representation to the district Collector. Subsequently the Collector asked the district environmental engineer to take immediate action.

Mr. Sampath said according to National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOH) if the level of sulphur dioxide exceeded 5 parts per million (ppm), it would cause health hazards including eye irritation, cough and choked throat condition.

When the company was asked to explain about the emission of Sulphur dioxide above the permission level, it had informed the Pollution Control Board that the online continuous sulphur dioxide stack monitor was under maintenance. But it had failed to inform the TPCB about temporary suspension of monitor and resuming its operations.

The Minister said while issuing orders for closing the copper smelter division TNPC also directed termination of power supply to the plant.

The company approached the Green Bench and the Bench in its interim order had directed constitution of two-member expert committee.

The names of the experts would be announced on April 18 and the report would be submitted on 29 of the month, the bench had said.

 

#India- National Green Tribunal says panel will inspect Sterlite’s Tuticorin plant


The members of the committee to inspect Sterlite’s copper smelter will be decided on 18 April
S. Bridget Leena, Livemint.com
First Published: Fri, Apr 12 2013. 09 32 PM IST
The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board ordered the closure of the Tuticorin plant, which produces more than 300,000 tonnes of the metal a year, on 29 March after local residents complained about noxious emissions. Photo:
The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board ordered the closure of the Tuticorin plant, which produces more than 300,000 tonnes of the metal a year, on 29 March after local residents complained about noxious emissions. Photo:
Chennai: The national green tribunal on Friday said it will constitute a committee to inspect the country’s largest copper smelter, run bySterlite Industries (India) Ltd.
The members of the committee will be decided on 18 April, said judicial member M. Chockalingam and expert member R. Nagendranof the national green tribunal.
The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board ordered the closure of the plant—which produces more than 300,000 tonnes of the metal a year—on 29 March after local residents complained about noxious emissions.
Sterlite, a unit of London-listed resources conglomerate Vedanta Resources Plc., has said the plant’s emissions are within permissible limits.
On 1 April, Sterlite filed a petition with the national green tribunal challenging the order of the state pollution control board.
The committee will inspect and assess the state of the copper plant. It will give its report on or before 29 April. Only after the findings of committee are presented will the tribunal decide on the re-opening of the plant, Chockalingam said.
The unit should be open for monitoring but it can’t start resume commercial production, the tribunal said.
During the proceedings on Friday, the judicial member asked why the pollution control board waited for more than a week to shut the plant if it found toxic amounts of sulphur dioxide were released between 2am and 11am on 23 March.
The Supreme Court last week fined Sterlite Rs.100 crore for polluting the environment but set aside a 2010 directive of the Madras high court to permanently close the Tuticorin smelter on grounds of environmental concerns.
The apex court said its judgement would not stand in the way of the matter regarding the emissions.
Vaiko, general secretary of the Tamil Nadu-based political party Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, is one of three entities supporting the state pollution watchdog’s order to shut the Sterlite plant.
Sterlite shares ended unchanged at Rs.88.50 on BSE on Friday, while the benchmark Sensex fell 1.62% to 18,242.56 points.

 

#India- Peoples Victory- STERLITE COPPER CLOSED #goodnews


Sterlite Copper Closed
30 March, 2013 — The Tamil Nadu Government has relented to public pressure and shut down Sterlite Industriescopper complex today. According to a worker, officials from 10 government departments arrived by the vanload in the plant last night at 8 p.m. The management then called a meeting of all staff and workers, and announced that the plant was shutting down. Sterlite requested time till about 12 midnight for phased closure, and this was conceded by the Government. By 1210 a.m. all plants except the smelter were shut down. Electricity connection to the copper complex has been disconnected.

On March 28, 2013, more than 5000 people from Thoothukudi — led by the Anti Sterlite People’s Struggle Committee — marched towards Sterlite to shut down the plant. Nearly 1000 people were arrested. The rally was prompted by a toxic gas leak on March 23. Sterlite has been a controversial company since the time that it was proposed in 1994. In its 20 years of operation, it has been shut down twice by the Madras High Court — once by way of an interim order, and in September 2010 through a final order. Sterlite appealed the High Court’s closure order in the Supreme Court, and the plant that was shut down last night was operating on leave from the Supreme Court.

A verdict on the Supreme Court case is expected on 2 April, 2013.

SC to decide fate of Sterlite’s Tuticorin plant Tuesday
By Indo Asian News Service | IANS India Private Limited

New Delhi, March 29 (IANS) The Supreme Court will Tuesday (April 2) pronounce its verdict on the fate of the Sterlite Industries’ copper smelting plant in Tamil Nadu‘s Tuticorin, which was ordered to halt its operations in 2010 by Madras High Court for violating environment norms.

The verdict will be pronounced by a bench of Justice A.K. Patnaik and Justice H.L. Gokhale.

Sterlite, which had described the high court order as “draconian”, had told the apex court that it was a public limited company with 2.3 lakh shareholders, 1,100 employees, 2,500 people employed indirectly and an annual turn over of Rs.13,000 crore.

It said the company was meeting 50 percent of the domestic requirements of copper and was contributing Rs.1,600 crore by way of taxes. Sterlite Industries was the largest manufacturer of copper in the country and even exported it, it added.

In the course of the hearing that was spread over several weeks, the apex court had asked the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI), Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) to carry out detailed inspection of the plant and its site.

CPCB counsel Vijay Panjvani said Sterlite spent Rs.150 crore for putting in place new pollution control devices to overcome the deficiencies in its pollution control measures as suggested to it by different agencies mandated to protect the environment.

The Madras High Court by its Sep 28, 2010 order had directed the immediate closure of the plant, nut the apex court, by its interim order of Oct 1, 2010, stayed its operation.

Besides the closure, the high court had also directed the payment of compensation to Sterlite’s employees as per the provisions of the Industrial Disputes Act.

Tuticorin’s district collector was also directed to take all necessary and immediate steps for the re-employment of the workers in some other companies, factories or organizations.

Challenging the high court order, Sterlite Industries contended that it was passed on a PIL filed in 1994, pointing to then alleged deficiencies in the compliance of the statutory environmental provisions.

It said that though the hearing on the PIL was concluded in January 2010, it was eight months after on Sep 28, 2010, that the high court passed the order directing the immediate shut down of the company.

While ordering the plant’s closure, the high court had noted that it was within 25 km of an ecologically fragile area

 

Vedanta-Sterlite – Dangerous by Design #CSR #Humanrightsviolations


 Nityanand Jayaraman

MARCH 28, 2013
 at kafila.org

Guest Post by  NITYANAND JAYARAMAN 

Tuticorin Oct 2010 298

A toxic hotspot in the backyard of a house in Therkuveerapandiapuram, a village adjoining the Sterlite factory.  Dangerous levels of iron and arsenic were found in the soil here. (Picture by Nityanand Jayaraman)

On 23 March, 2013, a toxic gas leak from Vedanta-subsidary Sterlite’s copper smelter in Thoothukudi spread panic and discomfort for several kilometres around the plant. The leak once again highlighted the increased potential for major catastrophes due to an atmosphere of collusion between regulators and polluters. The company, which was shut down for maintenance, resumed operations in the early hours of 23 March. Within hours, people in the nearby areas complained of suffocation and eye and nose irritation. A 35-year old Bihari contract labourer, who was working at Sterlite’s thermal power plant nearly a kilometre away, reportedly succumbed to the effects of the toxic gas. Irate residents rallied to the District Collector’s office demanding permanent closure of the offending factory.

The District Collector suggested that sulphur dioxide may have been the culprit. But anyone who knows the history of this plant would lay the blame not on this gas or that, but squarely on pliant regulators, and perhaps the judiciary.

The 1200 tonne per day (tpd) copper smelter was constructed in two phases – both with dubious legality – with active support of the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB), the Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) and the chairperson of the Supreme Court Monitoring Committee (SCMC). In September 2004, when SCMC visited Thoothukudi, it found that Sterlite had constructed a 900 tonne per day copper smelter complex without obtaining an Envirnomental Clearance from the MoEF. Neither did the plant have the mandatory Consents to Establish under Air and Water Acts.

Citing poor pollution management, the SCMC recommended that clearance should not be given. It ordered the TNPCB to verify the illegal constructions and take action. Contrary to recommendations, clearance was given a day after of the Committee’s visit to Sterlite. TNPCB inspected and confirmed the illegal constructions, but did nothing more.

On 7 April, 2005, a director at the MoEF wrote to the chairperson of TNPCB urging her to grant a Consent to Operate to Sterlite. “The directions issued by SCMC in this regard has (sic) been discussed with Chairman, SCMC, who has desired that TNPCB may now decide regarding granting consent for expansion to M/s Sterlite Industries India Ltd (SIIL) Tuticorin, Tamilnadu,” she wrote. The Air and Water Acts do not have any provision for legalising units constructed without a valid Consent to Establish. TNPCB obliged and issued a consent on 19 April 2005.

Sterlite went on to expand its capacity to 1200 tpd. To get its licenses, Sterlite exaggerated the extent of land in its possession. In 2007, Sterlite submitted an Environment Impact Assessment report that suggested that it had greened 26 hectares of its 102.5 hectare plant site. It claimed that it had sufficient lands – about 176 ha — in its possession to accommodate the expanded capacity and the resultant pollution (solid waste, air emission and effluents). It promised to plant 43 hectares with pollution-abating trees. Subsequent inspection reports by the TNPCB even state that the company had greened 25 percent of its 176 hectare land holding.

On 28 September 2010, the Madras High Court ordered closure of the copper plant. One key grounds for closure was the industry’s failure to comply with the condition requiring the development of a 25 metre greenbelt around the factory. TNPCB was chided for arbitrarily reducing the greenbelt requirement from 250 metres to 25 metres in response to Sterlite’s lament about high land costs associated with the wider belt.

The Madras High Court had rightly held that the failure to comply with greenbelt requirements was a crippling lapse. Indeed, had a thick belt existed, the effects of the recent gas leak would not have reached the city.
When Sterlite was shut down by the High Court, the factory was running without valid licenses under Air and Water Acts. Two days later, the Supreme Court stayed the High Court order and unwittingly authorised the unlicensed operation of a disputed facility.

In May 2011, Sterlite’s non-compliance of greenbelt requirements and its land fraud came to light in a report submitted by NEERI to the Supreme Court. Against a requirement of 176 hectares for the 1200 tonne plant, Sterlite had only 102.5 hectares, the report found. Also, less than 13 hectares – as against 43 hectares – had been greened.

Since October 2010, Sterlite has functioned on leave granted by the Supreme Court. During the apex court’s watch, at least 8 hazardous incidents were recorded where 3 workers were killed, four more injured. Several hundred people in the vicinity of the plant have been gassed.

Under the circumstances, faith in the rule of law is not an easy belief system to sustain.

UPDATE

Thoothukudi Gears up For Major Showdown with Sterlite

27 March, 2013. Thoothukudi – Residents of the coastal Tamilnadu town of Thoothukudi are gearing up for a major showdown with Sterlite on 28 March, less than a week after a massive gas leak injured hundreds of people for kilometres around the company’s controversial copper smelter. Numerous groups, cutting across political lines, will march from the city to Sterlite’s gates demanding its permanent closure. In the 20 years that it has functioned, Sterlite has been blamed for numerous mishaps, deaths and injuries. It has been closed twice by the Madras High Court, including in September 2010 when the High Court shut it down through its final order arguing that the company had violated siting setbacks, pollution norms and licence conditions.Tomorrow’s rally is gathering massive support as the Tamil Nadu Federation of Merchants led by Vellian, and the Esakkimuthu Conch Divers Association have said they will participate in the strike. The call for the strike was originally given by Vaiko, a political leader of the Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, who said that this was an issue that transcended politics, and that the residents are united in their desire to rid their city of Sterlite’s Bhopal-like factory. Other prominent Thoothukudi-based workers organisations too have committed their support to the strike. The Anna Bus Stand Taxi Drivers Association, and the Anna Bus Stand Auto Drivers Welfare Association with nearly 200 auto drivers as members have said they will boycott work and join the residents demanding closure of Sterlite. Many more organisations and political parties are expected to join.“We are very angry. We have seen numerous such agitations start and then stop. We want an end to this nonsense. Sterlite must be shut down,” said 55 year old M. Shanmugavelu, Presidents of the Auto workers Association.

34-year old M. Kishorekumar, who is the president of Taxi Drivers Association clarifies that they are not opposed to industries. “We want good industries to come to Thoothukudi, to Tamil Nadu. But Sterlite is not good for us. It is a dangerous factory. We have to think about our futures too,” he says. “My 11-year old son suffered because of the gas leak. It is now three days since the leak, and he is still complaining of head ache, eye and throat irritation, a bitter taste in his mouth and has no appetite. I have had to take him to hospital for three days. He has to go to school with all this because it is examination time,” Kishorekumar says.

List of Hazardous Incidents at Sterlite Industries between October 2010 and March 2013 during the time the plant has run on leave granted by Hon’ble Supreme Court.

Compiled by Nityanand Jayaraman, based on reports by Sterlite workers

Total: 3 dead; several injured in 8 incidents

Date

Incident

Number Dead/Injured

8.3.2013

Amalan, 30, sustained serious injuries after an electrical fire broke out at Motor Control Room of Phosphoric Acid Plant.

1 injured

18.3.2013

Swaminathan, 50, killed after falling into Phosphoric Acid tank. Due to the poor light conditions, the worker tripped on the scaffolding and fell 15 metres into an open and empty tank.

1 dead

23.3.2013

Massive gas leak, suspected to be Sulphur dioxide or trioxide, causes suffocation and panic around the Sterlite Copper plant. One Sterlite contract worker, Shailesh Mahadev, 35, reportedly succumbed to exposure to the gas.

1 dead; several injured

23.8.2011

One North Indian worker, sourced by labour contractor Lohit, and employed by Mahesh Engineering was injured while working in the Phosphoric Acid Plant. Workers, who said very little information was available about his condition and what actually happened. He is reported to have had 5 stitches.

1 injured

17.8.2011

A white gas (suspected to be Sulphur Dioxide) escaped for about 45 minutes at ground level throwing a scare among Sterlite workers, after a power outage caused a shutdown of the Copper smelter and sulphuric acid plant at around 10 a.m. today (17 August, 2011). The wind was blowing from East to West and carried the smoke away from the highway and the Milavittan village.

13.8.2011

Thangapandi, a 32-year old contract worker, engaged by OEG Ltd to work in Sterlite’s copper smelter factory sustained first degree burns due to an electrical accident. Thangapandi is a resident of Pandarampatti.

1 injured

31.5.2011

Amalanathan, a 28-year old crane maintenance mechanic, was electrocuted and killed in Vedanta-subsidiary Sterlite Copper’s premises today. According to workers, Amalanathan died on the spot at around 11.30 a.m. As of 3.30 p.m., the police had not yet registered a First Information Report. According to a Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK) party worker, it was only after the communist unions and MDMK intervened by staging a road blockade did the Police even enter the scene. Amalanathan, who was married barely 3 months ago, is a resident of a locality called 3rd Mile, near Sterlite.

1 dead

3.3.2011

Ratheesh, a young contract employee from Sterlite, sustained 30 to 35 percent burn injuries on chest and hand. He was admitted to Apollo Hospital, Madurai, and underwent treatment until 24.3.2011. Inpatient Number: 205688. Referred by Dr. Vanitha Stephen, Tuticorin.

1 injured

 

Nityanand is a Chennai-based writer and environmental activist.

BREAKING NEWS- Anti-Sterlite Protestors Arrested en Mass in Thoothukudi


 

 

Update 12 noon:MARCH 28, 2013 

Reported by Nityanand Jayaraman

Speaking on phone from Chandra Mahal (a wedding hall) where more than 200 people are detained by the police, Fatima Babu — one of several organisers of the protest — said that the rally demanding Sterlite Copper’s closure was massively attended. At the time of her arrest at around 1145 a.m., at least 7 bus loads of people had been removed from the roads and taken to various locations for detention. The arrests were continuing as more and more people were joining the procession. According to Fatima Babu, by the time of her arrest, nearly 5000 people had gathered. Shops in Thoothukudi, including all vegetable markets, jewellery stores, provision and small stores, have downed their shutters responding to the call join to the strike demanding Sterlite’s closure. Lorry, autorickshaw, taxi and van drivers too stayed away from the roads in solidarity.”I cannot estimate the number of people that are part of the strike, because there are people as far as I can see, and more are coming,” said Maharajan, a party worker with Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (MDMK). MDMK’s leader is one of the political figures who gave a call for the rally demanding closure of the copper smelter. The strike has representation from the Conch Coolie (Divers) Association, Anna Bus Stand Autorickshaw Drivers Welfare Association, All India Drivers Welfare Association, Tamilnadu Merchants Federation (led by Vellaiyan), and Anna Bus Stand Taxi drivers Association.

 

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