Evidence surfaces against Sterlite

By NT Bureau Published on Apr 04, 2018 03:27 PM IST

Chennai: New evidence released by an environmental NGO, the Chennai Solidarity Group, claims that Vedanta Limited’s copper smelter - Sterlite Industry - misled the Union Environment Ministry and the Madras High Court about the location of their proposed project, thereby rendering its environmental clearance illegal.

The evidence, published by an independent news website, Scroll, claim that the officials of the State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamilnadu had backed Sterlite's misrepresentations.

The allegations

 

As per the claims made by Chennai Solidarity Group's Nityanand Jayaraman in Scroll's report, in January 2009, Sterlite Industry secured necessary environmental clearance for the project from the Environment Ministry without holding a public hearing as mandated by law. And, between February 2009 and June 2010, Sterlite claims that SIPCOT transferred 324.53 acres of land to the company for its expansion project.

According to a clarification issued by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change in 2014, all projects located within industrial estates notified before the Environmental Impact Assessment rules were amended in 2006 could be given clearances without a public hearing.

In late 2017, residents were informed that SIPCOT wanted to build a new industrial complex, called the Tuticorin Industrial Park, adjacent to its existing industrial complex. The residents were told a public hearing would be held in January 2018 as part of the project’s Environmental Impact Assessment.

SIPCOT’s application for environmental clearance listed the survey numbers of the 1,616 acres of land on which it wanted to build the Tuticorin Industrial Park. When Nityanand Jayaraman of the Chennai Solidarity Group examined the application, he found these survey numbers tallied with the survey numbers listed by Vedanta Limited in its application for a fresh environmental clearance for the project in March 2018.

Jayaraman says that essentially this means Sterlite Industry is building its expansion project outside the existing SIPCOT industrial complex on a piece of land that is yet to be developed as an industrial estate. He also claims that on the map, the copper plant was completely removed from the SIPCOT industrial complex where Sterlite claimed its factory was coming up.

'This new evidence shows that the ongoing work is illegal. The environmental clearance was obtained by bypassing public consultation on the grounds that the proposed factory site was located inside a notified and approved SIPCOT industrial complex. Now it is revealed that the factory is located outside the complex,' Jayaraman alleges.

Officials silent

According to reports from Scroll, when they asked about the contradiction in the stated location of the project and the survey numbers, the district revenue officer, M Veerappan, seems to have said he was not authorised to respond to the question.

Their report also said neither the company nor the State corporation responded to questions emailed by them and questions sent to the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change were also unanswered.