The Tamil Nadu government has approached the Madras High Court seeking quashing of the Centre's 'Groundwater Quality Report' which claimed that Sterlite Copper Industry located in Tuticorin alone cannot be blamed for high pollution levels of groundwater in the area. Admitting the plea, a division bench headed by Justice R Subbiah on Tuesday ordered a notice to the Union water resources ministry and central groundwater board returnable by two weeks.
"The report released by the board is incorrect and unwarranted at this stage. It shows clear malafide intention of the board in supporting the case of the Sterlite Industry," the principal secretary of state environment and forest department said.
According to the petitioner, the board released a report titled 'Report on Short Term Investigation of Groundwater Quality in and Around SIPCOT Industrial Area, Tuticorin' which was communicated by the water resource ministry to the state through a memorandum dated August 28.
It was claimed that the assessment on quality of groundwater in and around the area was carried out by the board based on 30 samples collected from various borewells and dug wells in various villages in and around the area and a request was made to the state government to take appropriate action, the petitioner said.
"The said exercise was carried out by the board in June 2018 without notice or information to the district administration and the other line departments such as the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) and even the local district environmental engineers office of TNPCB," the official said.
It is to be mentioned that the investigating team could not enter the premises of Sterlite to take samples since the district authorities have sealed the factory following government order to close down the plant permanently, the petitioner said.
TNPCB has been monitoring the quality of groundwater based on samples collected from eight locations around Sterlite plant. The results revealed that the level of pollution has raised to very high levels.
The findings show that the groundwater contamination has been caused only by Sterlite hence the conclusion of the board that copper industry alone cannot be blamed for the pollution is not correct, the official said.
Chief Secretary Girija Vaidyanathan recently wrote to the Secretary, Ministry of Water Resources, RD and GR (Ground Water), saying Tamil Nadu was "perturbed" that the report had been commissioned without intimating the state government or the statutory authorities, including the TNPCB.
The government rejected the report on groundwater contamination in Tuticorin, saying it was "absolutely vague" and seemed to support the Vedanta Ltd unit which was "totally unwarranted." The main opposition DMK has lashed out at the report, saying it "angered' the people of the state.
Thirteen people were killed in police firing on May 22 and 23 after protests for closure of the plant over pollution concerns turned violent in the port city.
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