Tamil Nadu allows Vedanta's Sterlite plant to generate oxygen
The Tamil Nadu government on Monday allowed the Vedanta-owned Sterlite Copper plant in Thoothukudi to temporarily reopen to generate oxygen. The plant will be allowed to function for four months for the purpose of producing medical oxygen as India faces a shortage amid a brutal second wave of COVID-19. However, the production of copper will not be allowed. Here are more details.
Decision taken after CM chaired all-party meeting
The decision to temporarily allow the Sterlite plant to reopen was taken after an all-party meeting chaired by Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami earlier on Monday. At the meeting, it was decided that the plant will be reopened for four months for the purpose of producing medical-grade oxygen. The oxygen production will be monitored by a panel and supply to TN would be prioritized.
Last week, SC questioned TN's objection to plant reopening
The decision came after a plea was filed by Vedanta in the Supreme Court on Thursday seeking clearance to produce 1,000 tonnes of oxygen, to be utilized in treating COVID-19 patients for free. The court had on Friday asked the TN government to file its response saying, "When people are dying, Tamil Nadu cannot say you cannot open because of law and order issue."
Worsening COVID-19 situation causing oxygen shortage
The decision was taken in light of the worsening COVID-19 situation in TN and across India, which has led to a shortage of medical oxygen. With 15,659 new cases on Sunday, Tamil Nadu recorded the biggest single-day spike for the twelfth consecutive day. The total caseload has reached 10,81,988, which includes 1,05,180 active cases. 82 more fatalities pushed the state's death toll to 13,557.
Sterlite plant was ordered shut by TN in May 2018
The Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) had sealed the Sterlite Copper plant on May 23, 2018, following months of protests. On May 21-22, 2018, 13 people were killed in police firing during a protest. The National Green Tribunal (NGT) allowed the plant to reopen in December 2018. The NGT order was challenged by the TN government in the Supreme Court in January 2019.
In August 2020, Madras HC also rejected Vedanta's plea
The Supreme Court set aside the tribunal's order in February 2019 but allowed Vedanta to move the Madras High Court. In August 2020, the Madras HC had also dismissed Vedanta's plea. The company had then moved the SC against the HC order.