A bird flies past the logo of Vedanta installed on the facade of its headquarters in Mumbai, January 31, 2018. Photo: Reuters/Danish Siddiqui/Files
The Supreme Court on April 27 allowed Vedanta Ltd. to reopen a part of its beleaguered copper-smelting plant in Thoothukudi, Tamil Nadu, ostensibly in a bid to help India tide over its oxygen shortage crisis. The decision was controversial at the outset because residents of the city perceive Vedanta to be a serial defaulter with no regard for environmental health and safety.
In addition, Tamil Nadu is an oxygen surplus state, as well as is host to various non-disputed industrial units that could have helped increase the state’s supply of oxygen. In light of these issues, a group of former bureaucrats, environmental activists and social activists have penned a statement asking for the state to permanently shut the copper-smelting unit.
The statement is reproduced in full below, followed by the list of signatories.
Stop move to use Sterlite factory for oxygen
We, concerned citizens of Tamil Nadu who have been working for a safe sustainable environment, sustainable development and human rights, observe the following and demand the government of Tamil Nadu to stop efforts forthwith to open the Sterlite factory at Tuticorin for producing oxygen.
Political parties fooled themselves by giving conditional approval to open the factory whereas the Solicitor General Mr. Tushar Mehta and Advocate Harish Salve representing Vedanta objected to the stand of Tamil Nadu. Now the state govt is not going to run the factory but it is going to be Vedanta. The arguments of Mr. Colin Gonsalves representing citizens of Tuticorin has been ignored.
Vedanta is fully responsible for the murder of 13 persons and environmental degradation of Tuticorin city and its neighbourhood. “Sterlite Tuticorin is notorious for producing deadly poisonous gas… Allowing it to produce life-saving oxygen is a travesty on public health and governance”. When the entire local population (who are the worst sufferers and who constitute the major stakeholder group) are demanding for the complete closure of the factory and dismantling the Units, the move to open factory is felt like rubbing salt on the grave injury.
There are serious doubts about the capacity of Vedanta to produce oxygen at this plant. It is surprising why Vedanta is not using its other factories in the country, especially in the north, for producing oxygen.
Tamil Nadu is not having shortage of oxygen and Tamil Nadu can produce more by using public sector units in the state, including BHEL Trichy.
Experts have stated that India does not have shortage of production capacity as there are many factories producing industrial oxygen, which can be used for medical purposes with some modifications. What is needed is logistics for transportation. This logistics can be provided by Public Sector Units and defence forces within a short time frame.
Hence, we demand that the factory should not be opened for oxygen production and it should be permanently closed. Vedanta should compensate the people of Tuticorin. We also demand free vaccines for all citizens.
1. M.G. Devasahayam, IAS (retd.) and chairman, People First
2. Dr Janakarajan, Former Professor, MIDS Environment and Water expert
3. Mr Henry Tiphagne, People’s Watch
4. Prof. P. Rajamanickam, General Secretary, All India People’s Science Network
5. D. Thomas Franco, Former General Secretary, All India Bank Officers’ Confederation; Joint Convener, PSU National Task Force
6. Dr Jayashree Venkatesan, Care Earth Trust
7. Mr Sundar Rajan, Poovulagin Nanbargal
8. Mr Kovai Sadasivam, Environmentalist
9. Osai Kalidhas, Western Ghats Protection Movement
10. Mr Venice, Peoples Movement Against International Container Terminal, KK
11. Mr Senthul Pari, Exnora International
12. Mr Suresh, Peoples Union for Civil Rights (PUCL)
13. Ms Tara Murali, Environmentalist
14. Mr S.P. Udayakumar, Environmentalist/ Peoples Movement Against Nuclear Energy (PMANE)
15. Mr Subramaniam, Sabari Green Foundation
16. Mr Piyush Manush, Environmentalist, Salem Citizens Forum
17. Mr Muruganandam, Environmentalist
18. Mr Giridhar, Environmentalist
19. Mr Nityanand Jayaraman, Vettiver Collective
20. Ms Radhika Ganesh, Young People for Politics
21. Dr M.C. Rajan, Human Rights Advocate