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11 killed in police firing as protests against Sterlite Copper turn violent

Metal News - Published on Wed, 23 May 2018

Image Source: SteelGuru
The months-long protest of the locals, demanding the closure of the Sterlite Copper plant in Tuticorin over pollution concerns, turned violent on Tuesday, resulting in the death of 11-12 persons. Over 5000 protesters gathered at a locality to demand the permanent closure of the copper smelter, which has been opposed by locals for polluting their environment. The agitators hurled stones set vehicles and public property on fire. The protestors tried to gherao the collector's office and torched vehicles inside the premise. Police officials resorted to lathi-charge and tear gas to disperse the crowd to contain the tense situation. More than 65 people have been injured in the clashes between agitated protestors and police officials.

Sterlite Copper said "It's with great sorrow and regret that we witnessed today's incidents around the protest today at Tuticorin. The company has appealed to government and authorities to ensure safety of our employees, facilities and surrounding communities. Sterlite Copper plant is non-operational as we await approval for the consent to operate.”

The protests against Sterlite Copper escalated recently after the company announced its plans to expand its unit in the city. Residents have been agitating against the copper plants of the company, alleging that the pollution emitted by these plants was causing severe health issues, including cancer, among the people residing in the area. The National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) has found evidence that Sterlite has contaminated the groundwater, air and soil.

In 2010, the Madras High Court directed the closure of the smelting plant for failing to comply with environmental norms. Sterlite had against the order moved the Supreme Court, which stayed the high court's order in 2013 but asked the company to pay INR 100 crore as compensation for polluting land and water. In March 2013, The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) ordered the closure of the plant on grounds of leakage of noxious gas which led to nausea and skin irritation among a section of people. In March 2018, the locals took to the streets demanding the closure of the plant and a halt to Sterlite's expansion plans. Sterlite Copper unit was shut down on March 29 this year for 15 days for maintenance work. The firm has since then placed advertisements in dailies claiming that it has not violated any norms against the background of continuing protests. The plant still remains shut as Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) rejected Sterlite's application for renewal of consent to operate (CTO). The application has been rejected after the state pollution control board found that the factory has failed to adhere to safety measures. The CTO of Sterlite Copper unit has expired on March 31, 2018. The closure is now indefinite till the renewal is granted by the pollution board.

Sterlite Copper is a unit of Vedanta Limited which operates a 400,000-tonne per annum capacity plant in Tuticorin.

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Posted By : Rabi Wangkhem on Wed, 23 May 2018
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