Justice for Thoothukudi - Case against Vedanta Resources (Sterlite Copper)
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Richard Hermer QC
Marie Louise Kinsler
People of Tamil Nadu
Thank you Leigh Day, for representing Zambian villagers in a lawsuit against Konkola copper mines and its UK based parent company Vedanta resources plc. We are overwhelmed by the outcome of the court proceeding of having won the right to sue Vedanta resources plc in the “London court of appeal” for their activities overseas.
A very similar situation prevails in Tuticorin, India. Sterlite Copper industry is a subsidiary / business unit of Vedanta Resource Plc which runs India’s biggest 400,000 tons copper smelter in the region. The industry has faced lots of opposition from the residents of Tuticorin since its inception. The project started its construction in 1994. The mobilization for the cause was oppressed by police, citing that the project has no environmental impacts.
The commissioning of Sterlite Copper industry was in 1996, soon the legal battle set in. The industry faces legal issues on various fronts
- Ecological sensitivity (Gulf of Mannar)
- Not sufficient green belt around the region
- Pollutants seeping into the ground
- Lack of proper public hearing for starting the industry
In 1998 Madras High Court ordered NEERI (National Environmental Org) to submit a report. The study outlined all the flame. Finally the factory was shut down but again the order was revoked as another study by the same regulator flagged its operation. This study underplayed the actual impacts caused by Sterlite copper industry in the region.
Adding to the misery Sterlite crosses its permitted ambit of 70,000 ton per annum of production. Later in 2004, Supreme Court Monitoring Committee inspected the industry and asked TN PCB to review its clearance. The Supreme Court Monitoring Committee recorded none of its acid plants had license. TNPCB and Ministry of Environment relaxed its own rules for these private players.
Though the pattern of opening and closing remained, a big blow followed by India’s Supreme Court decision. In 2013, Supreme Court impugned all the previous verdicts and gave a nod for operation of industry, citing employment and infrastructure.
Serious health hazards caused due to smoke / gas leakage from Sterlite remains a big burden to the region, it accounted for 17 deaths. There is a spurt in cancer cases in Thoothukudi and over 4 lakh people are protesting in the streets for the last 2 months.
The regulators and courts are not being able to stand against Vedanta Resources Limited who is able to convince the authorities and override / relax the rules and regulation.
We the people of Tamil Nadu express solidarity with Tuticorin people to handle and uproot the company from Tamilnadu by organizing signature campaign.
We also request Leigh Day to represent Tuticorin people for the same in the English High Court.
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