Thoothukkudi, the port city of Tamil Nadu, is witnessing a protest against a mining industry and it is reverberating in London!
The people of this part is up in arms against the proposed expansion plans of Sterlite Copper Industries owned by Anil Agarwal of the Vedanta Group, based in London.
The Tamil diaspora assembled in front Anil Agarwal’s London home on Sunday urging Britain to intervene in the matter. The bone of contention is the move by Sterlite to set up another copper smelter plant which the agitators claim is dangerous to the health of the local community as well as the groundwater sources.
The district observed a complete shut down on Saturday and a demonstration by nearly 20,000 members of the local community which resembled the occupy Marina agitation for Jallikkattu witnessed in 2016.
Villagers staying in the vicinity of the Sterlite Plant in the SIPCOT (State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu) Park in Thoothukidi have been complaining of health issues caused by the air and water pollution because of the copper smelter plant operated by the Group.
Incidentally, the Sterlite started their first plant in Thoothukudi in 1994 after Maharashtra denied permission for it in Ratnagiri after agitation by locals against the plant.
The activists in Tamilnadu points out that in 1992, Sterlite had been allotted 500 acres of land by Maharashtra Industrial Development Corporation to set up a 60,000 tonne per annum copper smelter and associated facilities in the coastal district of Ratnagiri, which was later suspended by the District Collector of Ratnagiri on July 15, 1993, after year-long agitation by local people, fearing pollution.
A committee appointed by Maharashtra government found that such industries would endanger the region’s fragile coastal environment. But according to the activists, unfortunately for Tamilnadu, within a year, the rejected project had managed to get a foothold in Tamil Nadu violating norms.
They allege though the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) in its August 1, 1994, No Objection Certificate asking the company to carry out an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) specifically stipulated that the factory should be located 25 km from the Gulf of Mannar considering the ecological sensitivity of the Gulf of Mannar Biosphere Reserve, the plant came up within 14 KM inside the reserve.
“The leakage of obnoxious smoke from the copper smelter plant had caused breathing difficulties. Many people are living with severe pain in their legs,” says a resident K Devendran (50) in a Tamil news channel. He also said that many children in the locality were suffering from chronic coughing.
Meanwhile, S Ramadoss, founder of the PMK has demanded the closure of the copper smelter plant which is being operated right now and also the cancellation of the licence given to the Sterlite Copper for expansion.
Ramadoss, a medical doctor-turned-politician said that the environment and the marine life in and around the area were being affected by the plant and people were facing health issues like cancer and kidney stones due to the pollution caused by the plant.
M K Stalin, working president of the DMK too has demanded the immediate shut down of the plant and the revoking of the licence issued to the Group.
The Sterlite Copper Group has not reacted to the developments happening in Thoothukudy.