The National Green Tribunal, New Delhi, on Wednesday declined to grant any interim relief to Sterlite Industries (India) Ltd to reopen its copper smelter plant in Tuticorin. The unit was closed on March 29 following complaints of excessive emission of sulphur dioxide.
However, the NGT, after perusing the Expert Committee’s report, stated, “It appears that the stack and ambient air quality are within the permissible limits.”
The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) passed orders on March 29 disconnecting electricity supply to the plant and closing it. Against those orders, Sterlite filed appeals before the National Green Tribunal, Southern Bench. Pending the matter, the Expert Committee was constituted to assess the present conditions.
The Expert Committee assessed and appraised the actual working condition of the Sulphur dioxide (SO2) analyser, its current status, the routing of gas and the current actual emission values, when the plant was in operation during the study. It also measured the emission of SO2 from all applicable stacks and oversaw the process of calibration of the analyzer.
The Committee submitted its report to NGT, Southern Bench on April 29 and the matter was transferred to the principal seat, New Delhi.
When the matter came up for hearing on Wednesday before the National Green Tribunal, New Delhi, headed by its chairperson Justice Swatanter Kumar, the report of the Expert Committee was placed before it.
MDMK general secretary Vaiko, an intervener in the case, was present on the occasion.
He submitted that due to the recent incident, the entire district was affected, and opposed the grant of any interim relief.
Abdul Saleem, counsel for TNPCB, submitted that as there were instances of excessive emissions. There was no justification for granting any interim orders. He also contended that Sterlite’s appeals were not maintainable before the NGT and as per provisions of Air (Prevention and Control of Pollution) Act 1981, appeal remedy was available before the State Appellate Authority and the State government had issued an order dated May 7 constituting the Appellate Authority with appointment of members to it.
Counsel for Sterlite also sought interim order permitting the operation of the plant.
Without giving any relief as sought by its counsel, the matter was adjourned by the Bench for further hearing on May 14.
The Bench also directed the Registry to furnish copy of the Expert Committee’s report to parties.
Meanwhile, the Bench directed Sterlite to furnish information relating to mass balance of sulphur, efficiency of sulphuric acid plant, wet scrubbing system and time series of SO2 from the stacks and ambient air quality.