Sterlite Industries can breath easy now.
The National Green Tribunal has made 'absolute’ its interim order of May 31, which allowed the company to resume operations at its copper smelter plant in Tuticorin.
The plant was ordered to be closed on March 30 by Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board after residents complained of emissions that led to breathing problems. Sometime in the middle of last month, the National Green Tribunal also refused to alter its interim order in the wake of the findings of the report submitted by a Special Expert Committee on July 10.
The final verdict of the National Green Tribunal confirming its May 31 interim order should end the uncertainty at the Tuticorin unit of Sterlite, an arm of Anil Agarwal-controlled London-listed Vedanta Resources Plc.
While delivering its final order, the National Green Tribunal pointed out that there was nothing on record that justified the ``invocation of precautionary measure.’’ It went on to add that ``it is, in fact, a punitive action in the garb of a preventive measure.’’
The Tribunal said the "case on hand (Sterlite unit) is not a case of promoting development at the cost of the environment.’’ It went on to observe that "it has not been established that the industrial activity carried on by the appellant-company prejudicially, and in any way compromised either the environment or the interests of the future generations.’’
The Tribunal felt that "the environmental restrictions must operate with all their rigour but no action should be suspicion-based, which itself is not well-founded.’’
The Tribunal, however, set some terms while confirming its interim order.
It made it clear that Sterlite must ensure compliance of the direction, recommendations, and suggestions as spelt out by the Tribunal-constituted Special Expert Committee.
It directed the company to commission "source apportionment study’’ in and around SIPCOT industrial area in Tuticorin within a year, and take appropriate steps based on the report.
It also ordered the company to place its data of stack and ambient air quality in `public domain’.