The other side of Tuticorin plant case: a Twitter user claiming to be an employee shares insight

The Sterlite plant at Tuticorin, owned by mining major Vedanta was permanently shut down by the Tamil Nadu government in May after massive protests that claimed 13 lives. Sterlite, one of the biggest copper producers of India had appealed against the closure to the National Green Tribunal. Yesterday, the NGT refused to grant any interim relief to Sterlite and listed the matter for further discussion on August 9th.

The Tuticorin plant was India’s major copper smelter and it was estimated that about 30,000 jobs and 800 medium and small industries will be affected by the shut down of the plant. It was also reported that closure of the plant would lead to an increase in import costs of copper by a staggering 2billion USD.

A Twitter user by the name Raji Subramanian, who claims to be an employee of the plant, shared some insights into the numerous allegations against the plant and the reality behind them on a Twitter thread. She said she is merely presenting the truth and has nothing to gain from the issue. She claims that the articles about the Sterlite protests published in ‘liberal’ portals like The News Minute, The Wire, The Quint and The Hindu were equivalent to an analysis done by a 2nd standard kid. She also adds that the ides of ignoring data and focusing on people’s feelings is also moot because people also felt that the earth was flat.

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Subramanian then goes ahead to dismiss the claims of Sterlite’s liquid discharge polluting the ocean and environment is baseless because the plant does not discharge any liquid to the ocean. She claims the plant has been operating on ‘zero liquid discharge’ policy since its inception in 1997 and leaders like Vaiko and Nityanand Jayaraman were part of the NEERI committee in 2011 that established the zero liquid discharge claim.

She also shared some research studies in groundwater sources in nearby villages that showed that Sterlite copper had no effect on the level of pollutants.

She shared the data in the company website claiming that Sterlite has a sufficient number of effluent treatment plants and 3 facilities for reverse osmosis to ensure 100% recycling of its discharge. She also claims that the allegations of Sterlite Copper affecting rainfall in Tuticorin area are false because Tuticorin is rain shadow area and analysis of annual rainfall data over the years show that there is no correlation between Sterlite Copper and the amount of Rainfall in Tuticorin.

Subramanian further claims that the allegations of Sterlite taking up the water of Thamirabharani river are baseless because the plant takes only downstream water from the lag end, which would have anyways entered the sea and thus has no impact on agricultural water consumption. The company’s data show that Sterlite plant sources 67% of the water from its own desalination plants and effluent treatment plants and also engages in rainwater harvesting.

Subramanian further goes ahead to dismiss claims of Silicon Dioxide emissions and claims that the emissions are well within norms.

She asserts that Sterlite Copper has been a pioneer in providing employment in Tamil Nadu and states that the plant directly employes almost 4000 people and more than 70% of them are from Tamil Nadu. Indirectly, the plant helps 20,000 people associated with various small industries, supplier industries and customers in their livelihoods.

She further claims that the copper slag produced by Sterlite plant is non-leachable, non-toxic and has been certified by the Indian Toxicology Research Centre. She adds that even the claims of Sterlite Copper causing cancer in Tuticorin are misplaced because Tuticorin is one of the districts in Tamil Nadu listed under the lower number of cancer cases than districts like Chennai, Coimbatore and Kanchipuram. Further, no data had been produced to support the claims.

One of the main reasons for the plant facing opposition was the proposal for expansion. Vedanta claims that Sterlite Copper had obtained all the necessary government proposals necessary for the expansion.

She has further shared that between the years 1999-20005 and 2008-11, the plant operated under a deemed consent because despite application and payment of fees, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board had not renewed their consent. As the Supreme Court pointed the time period as a concern and also found some deviations in the parameters of the NEERI report, it had asked the company to deposit a sum of Rs 100 crores for remedial actions (if any) and since the sum is yet to be used for any corrective measures and remedial actions by the TN government, the company points out that there have been no such concerns.

She also asserted the Vedanta’s claim that the location of the plant is in accordance with the site approved by government standards and there is no negative impact on the marine life in the area. It maintains the government specified distance from eco-sensitive areas and releases no liquid pollutants into the sea.

In its annual report published last week, Vedanta had reportedly claimed that the protests against Sterlite Copper were based on misinformation and the company is under the process to getting necessary approvals to reopen the plant.

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