NGT panel visits Sterlite’s copper slag dumping site in Thoothukudi

After Sterlite Copper challenged its closure order, the three-member committee constituted by the National Green Tribunal (NGT) headed by former Chief Justice of Megalaya High Court Tarun Agarwal visited the copper slag dumping site at Pudhukottai village here on Saturday.

Senior environmental engineer, regional directorate of CPCB in Bengaluru HD Varalaxmi, scientists at union environment ministry Sathish C Garkoti and NGT panel chairman Tarun Agarwal inspected the river bank of Uppar stream/Kombadi stream at Pudhukottai here, where the copper smelter has dumped as much as 3.52 lakh tonnes of copper slag in the past five years.

Collector Sandeep Nanduri, sub collector MS Prashant, assistant collector (Training) Anu and officials of Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB), MDMK general secretary Vaiko, activists Fatima Babu, Gandhimathinathan, Thermal Raja, CPIM functionaries accompanied the team during the site visit.
Vaiko stated that the copper slag was filled to a depth of 15 metre. Gravel sand and vandal sand have been spread over it to cover up the chemical nature of the slag. He told the panel that agriculture in the surrounding areas was affected already and the dump obstructed the water ways.

The legal team of the Sterlite headed by vice president Sumathi objected to it saying that the copper slag was safe in the private land and it did not obstruct the water way.

Meanwhile, Fatima Babu explained Agarwal that the copper slag dumped along riverside posed grave threat for the livelihood of the Thoothukudi residents. “It may be beneficial for the company but it’s a matter of life for the general public,” she said.

On the occasion, CITU state secretary R Russel appealed the panel to visit 11 other copper slag dumping sites in the district.

Earlier, Agarwal told reporters at the Thoothukudi airport that, they had come following the order from the Green Tribunal.

“We will inspect the copper slag dumping site and go around the village to inspect the conditions. We will visit the factory premises (Sterlite) and hold  public hearing on Sunday,” he said. “Both the parties will be heard at Chennai and the report on the visit will be submitted within six weeks. But we don’t have much time,” he added.

Following the visit of the panel by the principal bench of NGT, tight police security was deployed by Superintendent of Police P Murali Rambha at copper slag dumping site.  A contingent of over 300 policemen, riot control vehicle, water canon, fire and rescue engines were roped in for the security.

‘Sand over slag covers dump’s chemical nature’
Vaiko stated that the copper slag was filled to a depth of 15 metre. Gravel sand and vandal sand have been spread over it to cover up the chemical nature of the slag. He told the panel that agriculture in the surrounding areas was affected already and the dump obstructed the water ways. The legal team of the Sterlite headed by vice president Sumathi objected to it saying that the copper slag was safe in the private land and it did not obstruct the water way

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