Chennai/ New Delhi:
Vedanta-owned Sterlite copper smelting plant in Tamil Nadu’s Thoothukudi, which was shut in 2018 amid protests by locals over environmental pollution, will be re-opened for four months to produce oxygen, the state government said today. The move comes as Tamil Nadu sees a surge in Covid cases.
A government-appointed panel will monitor the functioning of the plant, officials said, adding that copper production won’t be allowed.
The decision was announced after an all-party meeting earlier today where MK Stalin’s DMK suggested that Sterlite “should provide oxygen for free” to Tamil Nadu. The DMK also stressed on the monitoring of the functioning of the plant.
“Sterlite can’t use this permission to reopen plant in any way,” the party stressed.
Last year, mining giant Vedanta’s plea was rejected by the Supreme Court to reopen the plant. Earlier, the Madras High Court had refused to allow permission to Vedanta.
An alarming spike in Covid infections across the country has burdened the healthcare system. India recorded 3.51 lakh fresh Covid cases and 2,812 deaths in a new grim record, the government data this morning showed.
Tamil Nadu logged 15,659 new infections, taking the caseload to 10. 8 lakh.
On Sunday, Chief Minister E Palaniswami wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi and requested him for immediate cancellation of oxygen supply from its plants to Andhra Pradesh and Telangana.
Tamil Nadu, Mr Palaniswami said, is witnessing high level of oxygen dependent active cases, leading to requirement of 450 metric tonnes (MTs) which is above the state’s production capacity of 400 MTs.
“As compared to the maximum active case number of around 58,000 during the previous surge in 2020, the active caseload has increased to over a lakh today,” he said.
Though Tamil Nadu never imposed any restrictions so far and is always ready to support other states, such mandatory diversion of liquid oxygen from the state “can lead to major crisis” in Chennai and other districts, he said.