NGT pulls up District Collector for not filing his counter

The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) on Tuesday submitted before the National Green Tribunal, Southern Bench, here that Sterlite Industries’ copper smelter plant was not fit for operation and should not be permitted to commence operations in view of numerous incidents of excessive emissions sulphur-dioxide.

“If the plant commenced operations, irreparable injury and hardship will be caused to the public, as there is imminent threat and danger of a chemical disaster,” TNPCB member-secretary S. Balaji said in a counter-affidavit filed through counsel Abdul Saleem. The counter was against Sterlite’s applications challenging the closure of the plant and disconnection of power supply to it.

The matter came up for hearing before the NGT Bench, comprising judicial member Justice M. Chockalingam and expert member Prof. R. Nagendran.

Justifying its action, the TNPCB said Sterlite had been habitually negligent and very casual towards maintaining safety safeguards. “There have been several incidents of such breach in the past and, in fact, Sterlite had been operating only on the basis of the interim orders of the Supreme Court after having been closed earlier.

The completion of all 30 improvements as directed by the Supreme Court after considering the report of NEERI is not relevant as a major breach has happened thereafter’’.

“The direction to close the unit and disconnect the power supply is not based on surmises or assumptions and based upon one more instance of excess emission of sulphur dioxide,” the TNPCB added.

MDMK general secretary Vaiko, counsel for the National Trust for Clean Environment, and Fathima Babu, a resident of Tuticorin, sought to be impleaded in the case. The Tribunal ordered that they be impleaded.

The Bench pulled up the Tuticorin District Collector for not filing his counter, as earlier directed. The matter was posted for further hearing April 12. The NGT Bench also took exception to a statement made by the Collector that he would ensure the plant’s closure while the matter was pending before the Tribunal.

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