A team of experts from IIT Madras and Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board officials have begun inspecting the Copper smelter unit of Sterlite Industries on a direction from the National Green Tribunal following alleged noxious gas leak last month, causing health problems to locals.

Officials said the copper smelter unit was operated in the presence of the team to check quantum of sulphur-di-oxide being released. The committee made on-the-spot assessments in the heat-up process in the smelter, sulphuric acid plant and air monitoring system and also took note of data recorded in the system, they said.

The team, which began their inspection on Tuesday, would visit again on Friday when the plant reaches full capacity to assess the amount of sulphur-di-oxide being let out and submit its report on April 29, they said.

The gas leak caused mild suffocation, sore throat and eye irritation to several people in the locality. On Mar 30 TNPCB ordered closure of the Vedanta group company.

However Sterlite Industries moved the National Green Tribunal on April 1 challenging the order, saying it had been passed without giving an opportunity to them.

The Anti-Sterlite Unit agitation Committee had also launched a series of agitations against the plant and shops in the town remained closed for a day following a call from the committee.

The Supreme Court had on April 2 asked Sterlite Industries to pay Rs 100 crore as compensation for polluting the environment through its plant and to pay the amount over three months from that day to the District Collector of Tuticorin.

The tribunal appointed a four member committee on April 18 to inspect the factory to undertake a study of the plant and submit a report on April 29.

The committee is led by IIT Professors T.S.T. Sai and Leigib Philip. They are being assisted by Sterlite General Manager (Health,Safety,Environment) A. Sumathi, Additional Chief Engineer of Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board Mohan Naidu.

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