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India: Activists question neutrality of NGT committee's conclusion that closure of Sterlite/Vedanta plant was illegal

"Sterlite Copper row: Activists question neutrality of NGT panel that found closure of plant illegal", 29 November 2018

Environmental activists on Wednesday [28 November] expressed disappointment with a National Green Tribunal-appointed committee’s conclusion that the Tamil Nadu government’s decision to shut down the Sterlite Copper smelter in Thoothukudi district on May 28 is illegal, improper and “in violation of natural justice”...Describing the finding as “predictable”,...a member of the Anti-Sterlite People’s Movement and one of the interveners in the case, said, “We had earlier expressed our doubts about the neutrality of the committee by way of an application at the NGT..."

The state government issued the order to shut down the Sterlite Copper smelter after 13 people protesting the planned expansion of the plant were killed in police firing in Thoothukudi on May 22...In June, Vedanta challenged the state government’s closure order in the National Green Tribunal...On August 23, the tribunal set up the three-member committee to conduct an “independent probe”...The [committee]...concluded that the [order was] not maintainable as the company was not given an opportunity to defend itself...The National Green Tribunal will now hold the final hearing in the case on December 7 and pronounce its order...

At a hearing in Chennai on October 5, the committee received more than 3 lakh [300,000] letters opposing the reopening of the plant...Nearly 1.7 lakh [170,000] of the representations were reportedly from the Anti-Sterlite People’s Movement. Later that month, the Tamil Nadu government told the National Green Tribunal that the air quality in Thoothukudi had improved since the plant was shut down...

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