Panel formed to supervise oxygen production at Sterlite plant
Chennai: The Tamil Nadu government on Friday formed a monitoring committee to supervise Vedanta-owned Sterlite copper smelting plant in oxygen production as directed by the Supreme Court earlier this week.
It is after three years that the plant, which was shut down in the wake of the 2018 anti-Sterlite protests and in which 13 people were killed in police firing, will reopen for oxygen production for three months. As per the top court’s order, Vedanta will not be allowed to access the copper and power plants in the precinct.
The committee will be headed by Thoothukudi district collector Senthil Raj as chairperson. Raj has been directed to send a report every fortnight to the state government.
Other members of the committee will comprise district superintendent of police S Jeyakumar, sub-collector, district environmental engineer of Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB), Joseph Pellarimine Anton Soris, deputy chief chemist of Thoothukudi Thermal Power Station and two environmental experts who are yet be nominated.
The oxygen plant will be run and managed by Vedanta Industries Limited as per the directions of the monitoring committee in compliance with environment and safety norms, a government order signed by additional chief secretary, Sandeep Saxena, read.
The committee will be empowered to oversee the functioning of the oxygen plant as directed by the Supreme Court. It will decide on the number of persons to be permitted inside the premises to operate and manage the plant.
The panel will also conduct a safety audit before the start of operations, and issue appropriate safety directions. Most importantly, the committee can engage with residents to ‘redress any legitimate concern in regard to the nature modalities for operating the oxygen plant on a stand-alone basis’.
The state government had shut the company in May 2018 in the wake of large scale protests against pollution and health problems caused by the operations in the plant. On the 100th day of the protests, 13 civilians were killed in a police firing, an incident that is currently under probe by the Central Bureau of Investigation, and one-memberretired justice Aruna Jagadeesan committee.
Despite the court’s latest order, local residents continue to protest over fears that the company may reopen the facility for copper smelting. The court order is applicable till July 31.
Vedanta’s plea to resume full-fledged operations is pendingin the top court.