Power supply cut; Vaiko says shutdown victory for local people

Mired in controversy in recent days, Sterlite Industries Limited’s copper smelter in Tuticorin was shut down on Saturday.

Operations in the plant came to a standstill in the wake of an order from the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board. Tuticorin Collector Ashish Kumar instructed officials to inspect the Vedanata group company to make sure that the production lines remained shut.

The closure order has come after a gas leak was reported in the early hours on March 23.

Following emission of sulphur dioxide from Sterlite, people in the neighbourhood experienced unease and complained of suffocation, sneezing and burning sensation in the eye.

D. Dhanavel, General Manager, Projects, Sterlite Copper, said the closure order was received on Friday night.

An order was served by Revenue Divisional Officer of Tuticorin, K. Latha, to the company on March 24, seeking explanation for the incident within five days.

A team comprising Revenue Divisional Officer of Tuticorin, officials from the Pollution Control Board, Revenue and Tangedco has been carrying out inspections at the sulphuric acid plant, the phosphoric acid plant and other plants since 8 a.m., Ms. Latha said.

The Collector, when contacted, told The Hindu that power lines to the company were disconnected.

Tuticorin Tangedco Superintending Engineer, R. Amirtha Rathnakumar, said power was cut at 12.21 a.m. on Saturday.

Activists celebrate

Activists protesting against the functioning of the copper smelter celebrated the shutdown, but the company insisted that it had been in operation for 17 years with all requisite clearances and approvals.

It said it would explain the factual position to the TNPCB and cooperate fully with the authorities so that it could restart operations soon.

Calling it a victory for the local population, Vaiko, general secretary, MDMK, in a statement thanked Chief Minister Jayalalithaa for her decision to close down the smelter. He termed Sterlite as a ‘noxious industry’ causing harm to the lives of people. Pollution in all forms from Sterlite and its baneful effects impacted the livelihoods of farmers, fishermen and traders as farm lands turned unproductive and groundwater and seawater became unusable.