Vedanta offers to invest Rs 100 cr in Tamil Nadu for people’s welfare

New Delhi: Mining company Vedanta on Friday offered before the National Green Tribunal that it would invest Rs 100 crore at Thoothukudi in Tamil Nadu for the welfare of people in addition to the regular social work being carried out by it under the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).

The submission was made by Vedanta’s counsel during the hearing on its plea challenging closure of its Sterlite copper plant at Tuticorin, where a massive protest was witnessed on May 22 against pollution being allegedly caused by the factory. At least 13 people were killed and several were injured on May 22 when police had opened fire on a crowd of people staging protest there.
The firm told a bench headed by NGT chairperson Justice A K Goel that its plea challenging closure of the plant was “maintainable” as per various provisions.

The firm said there was not “enough proof” to suggest that it was affecting the health of people there. Senior advocate C A Sundaram, appearing for Vedanta, said their plea has merits and they have accepted the report of an independent committee, constituted by the green tribunal to look into the allegations of environmental pollution by Vedanta-owned Sterlite copper factory.

The committee, headed by former Meghalaya High Court Chief Justice Tarun Agrawal, had said that no notice or opportunity of hearing was given to Vedanta before the closure of the plant. “The impugned orders cannot be sustained as it is against the principles of natural justice. No notice or opportunity of hearing was given to the appellant.

The grounds mentioned in the impugned orders are not that grievous to justify permanent closure of the factory. Other issues raised also does not justify the closure of the factory even if the appellant was found to be violating the conditions/norms/ directions,” the committee had said.

During the hearing on Friday, Sundaram said they would address all the issues mentioned in the committee’s report. He said Vedanta has offered to invest Rs 100 crores for the people of Thoothukudi and the money could be used to construct schools, hospitals and supply of drinking water.

He said this amount would be in addition to the Rs 10 crore spent by the company annually towards CSR. He said there was not enough proof to show that Sterlite was affecting the health of people and ground water. One of the counsel representing the Tamil Nadu government said there were large scale protest after which police started firing.

When the bench asked whether there was any involvement of Naxals or the company in the incident, the authorities counsel said that the FIRs are registered against the protestors only. Senior advocate C S Vaidyanathan, representing the Tamil Nadu government, claimed that there was no provision in the NGT Act to form the committee and even the panel has certain limits.

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