The panel headed by former chief justice of Meghalaya apex court, Tarun Agrawal was informed by the state pollution control board (PCB) that Sulphar-di-oxide (SO2) emission moved down significantly following the shut down of the copper smelter (Photo: ARUN SANKAR/AFP/Getty Images).
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In a significant development, the ambient air quality has been improved in the locality of the closed Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper plant in Southern Indian town, Tuticorin, according to the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board before a panel formed by India’s environment court, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) on Sunday (28).

The copper plant is located at Tuticorin, a costal town located in country’s Tamil Nadu state. The panel headed by former chief justice of Meghalaya apex court, Tarun Agrawal was informed by the state pollution control board (PCB) that Sulphar-di-oxide (SO2) emission moved down significantly following the shut down of the copper smelter.

“The PCB submitted data of air samples collected in (October 2018) and around the closed Sterlite unit. Several parameters were studied and it showed an improvement in the ambient air quality in the neighbourhood,” India’s news agency Press Trust Trust of India (PTI), quoted Babu and Raja who participated in the hearing as saying.

Meanwhile, Stelite’s lawyer said that PCB’s statements were opposed on the grounds that the firm was neither intimated nor called-upon to take part in the sampling process as per the rules and regulations of the government.

The provisions of law in connection with the case including the matters related to the Air Act were not complied with and the air tests were completed at a private laboratory by the PCB and not at a government lab, the lawyer said in the hearing.

On April 9, Tamil Nadu PCB declined to renew its permission to let Vedanta’s copper smelter to function.

The state government on May 28 this year asked the state PCB to seal and permanently shut the Vedanta’s copper smelter after Tuticorin witnessed violent protests over environmental pollution concerns.

Thirteen people were killed and several others injured on May 22 after the police forces opened fire on a crowd of the people who were protesting against pollution allegedly caused by the copper smelter.

The panel was formed by the country’s environment court on August 20 to look into a petition opposing the smelter’s shut down and connected issues.

The NGT stated that the “committee may, if necessary, visit the site and consider the technical data and take a decision as early as found viable preferably within six weeks after it assumes its working.”

On September 10, India’s top court, supreme court had asked NGT to take a decision on the merits and maintainability of the issue raised by the state government on Vedanta’s petition, challenging the shut down of its plant.

“We strongly reject these unfounded allegations. We have data and research to prove that these allegations are not true, and would like to reiterate that the Sterlite Copper plant has been operating within all applicable environmental regulations and standards,” Vedanta said earlier, in statement in response to the allegations that the plant was causing environmental pollution, damaging health and breaching regulations.

“The plant is equipped with full-fledged air pollution control measures and adequate solid waste management facilities. The plant follows zero liquid discharge since inception, and all the effluent is treated and recycled back into operations, so there is no effluent discharge. The regulator, TNPCB, carries out regular monthly sampling across all village bore wells and has found no abnormalities,” Vedanta added.