Groundwater realities

By NT Bureau Published on Sep 10, 2018 02:56 PM IST

After a break, the controversial Sterlite plant is once again in the news, with the Tamilnadu government rejecting late last week a Central government-sponsored report on the groundwater contamination in Thoothukudi, saying it 'prejudiced' the State government cases in various courts against the copper smelter plant of Vedanta Ltd. Tamilnadu, it may be recalled, had ordered the closure of the plant following protests and the death of 13 persons in police firing on 22 May.

Tamilnadu Chief Secretary Girija Vaidyanathan, in a letter to the Union Ministry of Water Resources Secretary, said the State government was extremely perturbed that the Ministry chose to commission a study and obtain a report from Central Ground Water Board in Thoothukudi without any intimation to the State government or to any statutory body, including the Tamilnadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB). "The state strongly feels that the report is motivated and has been prepared only to prejudice the government and TNPCB cases in various courts," she said, and added it appeared to support Sterlite and "is absolutely vague and without any support of empirical data".

This development has come amid allegations that attempts are being made to reopen the Sterlite plant. While industries should be allowed to function and flourish for the economic growth and employment opportunities they provide, it should not be at the cost of polluting the environment. To safeguard the environment, a fundamental duty is imposed on the State by virtue of Article 48-A of the Constitution of India. It seems the TNPCB has conducted detailed studies before ordering the closure of Sterlite copper smelter plant and the Centre should take any step regarding the Sterlite issue only after consulting the State government and local people.