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Vedanta moves SC, seeks permission to continue oxygen production in Thoothukudi plant

The Tamil Nadu government, represented by senior advocate Kapil Sibal, opposed the plea and said that the state currently has enough medical oxygen.
Written by Srivatsan K C | Edited by Meenakshi Ray, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
UPDATED ON JUL 30, 2021 12:56 PM IST
Main gate of Sterlite Industries Ltd's copper plant in Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu.(Reuters File Photo)

Vedanta Limited moved the Supreme Court seeking its directions on continuing the operation of its plant in Tamil Nadu's Thoothukudi for producing medical oxygen. Senior advocate Harish Salve, representing Vedanta in the case, mentioned the plea before the SC regarding the operation of the plant.

However, the Tamil Nadu government, represented by senior advocate Kapil Sibal, opposed the plea and said that the state currently has enough medical oxygen. “We oppose this. We already have enough oxygen,” legal news website Live Law cited Sibal as saying. Following this, the top court decided to take up the matter next week for a hearing.

The issue came up in the court as the plant was previously allowed by the court to operate until July 31 only for the production of medical oxygen with no access to its copper and power plants within the premises. The Sterlite copper plant, which was shuttered in May 2018 following protests by local residents, was granted this permission to mitigate the ballooning need for medical oxygen during the second wave of Covid-19 infections in the country.

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During the previous hearing on April 27, 2021, Vedanta informed the court that the facility at Thoothukudi could produce 200 metric tonne (MT) of medical oxygen per day and would start production in the second week of May. The Supreme Court bench of justice L Nageswara Rao and justice S Ravindra Bhat allowed the company to operate the plant under the supervision of a committee that will also decide the number of people on the premises to run the oxygen production unit.

Thoothukudi district collector, sub-collector, district environmental engineer, two government officials with technical knowledge of the subject, two experts nominated by people affected due to the pollution from Vedanta’s copper smelter, the superintendent of police and two experts from a list of three people suggested by the Union environment ministry would form the committee, the court had ordered.

Also, the then AIADMK government in Tamil Nadu allowed the operations following an all-party meeting in which it was decided that it would be allowed only for the production of medical oxygen. It was also decided that the state would get priority in the oxygen produced from the plant.

The first batch, 4.8 tonnes of liquid oxygen, was dispatched from the facility on May 13, the company then said in a statement.

The copper smelter plant at Thoothukudi was shuttered in May 2018 following massive local protests against the pollution caused by the plant in which 13 people were killed in police firing.

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