Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan Blames UPA for Tuticorin Sterlite Plant Issues

Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan on Friday sought to blame the previous UPA regime for issues related to Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper unit in Tamil Nadu’s Tuticorin and asserted that his ministry would look into the matter after 13 people were killed during protest against the expansion of the plant which, they alleged, was causing groundwater pollution.

Amid allegations of environment pollution at the unit, sources in the ministry said the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) had sought a report on the matter. The minister also said that he had asked his officials to study the issue “with seriousness and in-depth”.

Chief Minister Palaniswamy, who met reporters in Chennai, said his government would continue to take steps legally for closure of the Sterlite copper smelter plant against which the local people have been protesting and said electricity to the plant was cut on Thursday.

“Our first priority is return of normalcy,” he said, taking an apparent dig at Stalin and other opposition leaders who have made a beeline to Thoothukudi.

“Some political parties and anti-social elements have wantonly instigated the innocent people who have been protesting peacefully all along and took them on the wrong path, leading to unfortunate incidents,” Palaniswamy said without naming any political party.

CSE had said Sterlite stood as a classic case of failed environmental governance. Years of violations and concerns raised again and again by residents of the area seemed to have mattered little.