A group of farmers has taken the Tamil Nadu government and the Tatas to court objecting to the government's decision to clear a titanium project in Tuticorin district, reportedly without conducting an environmental impact assessment (EIA).
Justices Prafulla Kumar Misra and PR Shivakumar of the Madurai bench of Madras High Court admitted the public interest litigation on Tuesday and issued notices to seven respondents including the central and state governments and Tata Steel Ltd on Wednesday.
In their plea, the Kuttam Sand Dunes and Dry Land Farmers' Association in Tirunelveli objected to the government's clearance to the Rs.25 billion titanium project, to be built by the Tata group, without conducting the EIA. An EIA is mandatory for such projects, they said.
The project needs about 16,000 acres of land and another 3,000 acres of shoreline, as it is a water intensive process.
The farmers' association, in its petition, represented that according to studies done in west African countries like Madagascar and Sierra Leone, titanium dioxide extraction "caused deforestation, relocation of villages, chemical pollution and radioactivity besides emission of carcinogenic dioxins into the atmosphere".
Meanwhile, Tuticorin district collector R Palaniyandi has in a statement confirmed that the Tatas have begun acquiring land in the district.
Local media reports said the Tatas began acquiring land in Sathankulam and Tiruchendur regions in late August and have bought about 100 acres. By the end of the year, they plan to acquire about a thousand acres, sources said.
A district administration official said that the Tatas have been allowed to purchase land directly from 7,500-odd farmers.