The committee formed by the National National Green Tribunal to decide on mining company Vedanta's plea challenging closure of Sterlite copper plant at Tuticorin on Wednesday told the green panel that the shutdown was not sustainable.
The committee said that the closure was "against the principles of natural justice".
The committee, headed by Tarun Agrawal (former Meghalaya High Court Chief Justice), further said that no notice or opportunity of hearing was given to Vedanta before the closure.
The committee informed a bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice Adarsh Kumar Goel, "The impugned orders cannot be sustained as it is against the principles of natural justice. No notice or opportunity of hearing was given to the appellant. The grounds mentioned in the impugned orders are not that grievous to justify permanent closure of the factory. Other issues raised also does not justify the closure of the factory even if the appellant was found to be violating the conditions/norms/ directions."
Taking note of the report, the NGT directed that the soft copy of the report be furnished to counsel for the company, Tamil Nadu, Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) and the Central Pollution Control Board by an email.
"The interveners would be at liberty only to assist the State Counsel and not to individual hearing. At this stage only a copy of the report be furnished, as earlier directed. It will be open to the parties to file any submissions with respect to the report or otherwise, within one week from today. The parties may exchange their respective submissions," the bench said.
The panel also said that in the event the tribunal is of the opinion that the factory should commence production, the committee is of the opinion that it should be directed to monitor ground water quality, including heavy metals such as Arsenic, Cadmium, Silver, Copper, Fluoride in and around the factory premises and nearby villages once a month and such report should be furnished to the TNPCB.
"The sampling of the above should be taken in the presence of an official from TNPCB. In addition, the sampling of effluent/emission and solid waste should also be done by a monitoring group to be constituted by TNPCB comprising a representative of the district collector, an official of TNPCB, NGOs and academicians.
"Both the reports should be sent by TNPCB to CPCB for analysis. Recommendations made by CPCB should be followed. Copper slag dumped at all the 11 sites, including the Upper River, should be removed. If Copper slag has been used for landfill purposes, then the excess amount of the slag over and above the level of ground would be removed and thereafter the landfill should be compacted with one feet of soil so that the Copper slag is not blown away by the strong winds," the committee said.
The TN government on May 28 ordered the state pollution control board to seal and "permanently" close Vedanta's copper plant following violent protests over pollution concerns. At least 13 people were killed and several injured on May 22 when police had opened fire on a huge crowd of people protesting against environment pollution being allegedly caused by the factory.
The matter is now listed for consideration on December 7.
With Agency Inputs