Thoothukudi resident Prince Cardoza has filed a writ petition in Madras High Court's Madurai bench seeking to quash the Environmental Clearance (EC) granted to Sterlite Copper in 2007 for the existing four lakh tonne per year smelter complex.
The Court has admitted the petition and issued notices to all parties including Union Ministry of Environment Ministry, Customs Department, TN Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) and Government of Tamil Nadu.
In the petition, Cardoza argues that Sterlite obtained EC by making a false representation that it had adequate land of 172.17 hectares for expansion, including for solid waste storage, and other environmental protection infrastructure but it had in its possession only 102.3 hectares.
The petition also highlights that Sterlite may have been emitting on average about eight tonnes of Arsenic, a known carcinogen, daily into Thoothukudi's environment during operation. This figure was calculated using the company's own data.
Besides, the Writ Petition presented a scientific opinion by Dr T Swaminathan, a retired professor of Chemical Engineering from IIT Madras, which reveals that the chimney stacks attached to the Sulphuric Acid Plant and copper smelter are not of adequate height to ensure effective dispersion of sulphur dioxide.
According to a calculation verified by Dr Swaminathan, the sub-standard stacks attached to the acid plant will result in sulphur dioxide levels of 125 micrograms per cubic meter at the ground level at a distance of about 1.6 km impacting villages like T Veerapandiapura, Meelavittan and Pandarampatti. The emissions from the smelter stack will result in maximum ground-level concentrations of 104 micrograms per cubic meter at a distance of 811 metres from the plant.
After 13 people were killed in the police firing on May 22 during the anti-Sterlite protest, Tamil Nadu government on May 28 ordered the permanent closure of the existing smelter plant. The Sterlite Copper has moved the National Green Tribunal in New Delhi challenging the state government's closure order.