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Sterlite Industries asked to close down Tuticorin plantAction after gas leak

March 31, 2013

Business Standard

Vedanta Group firm says it didn't cause any illness

The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) has asked the Vedanta Group firm Sterlite Industries India Ltd to close down its copper smelter plant in Tuticorin “immediately”, following a recent leakage of toxic gas.

The board has identified that there was sulphur dioxide emission and several people in the neighbourhood have experienced eye irritation, among other disturbances, and based on this, the board has asked the company to close down the plant, a senior TNPCB official said.

Stelite Industries confirmed this. "We have received an order from the Pollution Control Board yesterday asking us to close down the plant immediately and we have started the process to shut it down. The closure will be completed in a day or two, depending on the processes going on," said a company official based in Tuticorin.

A company statement issued later said in response to a few public complaints of emission, on March 23, 2013, TNPCB carried out a preliminary inspection and the company provided all technical details of the operations.

"Since all parameters were found within the permissible levels and there were no cases of illness, we believe this should have been the subject matter of detailed technical evaluation by TNPCB. However, TNPCB has ordered closure of the plant," said the company. "We will engage with TNPCB to explain the factual position and are committed to cooperate fully with the authorities in this regard, in order to be able to restart operations."

With the closure notice issues, the board official said it was now the responsibility of the company to prove that measures had been taken to ensure safety, according to the norms. Based on this, the board would conduct its inspection and take a decision.

District collector Ashish Kumar said the district administration would conduct another investigation on the company under the Section 133 of Criminal Procedure Code against creating public nuisance. The district administration has served notice to the company on this. The investigation is currently under progress, he added.

The gas leak caused mild suffocation, sore throat and eye irritation to several people in the locality. Following this, people started protests demanding the plant shut down.

Marumalarchi Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam leader Vaiko and Communist Party of India leader Nallakkannu were arrested on March 28 for leading agitations demanding the closure of the unit.

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