Shops, restaurants, taxi ranks and autorickshaws have shut shop in Thoothkudi, Tamil Nadu, today in a bandh (shutdown) called by members of the Anti-Sterlite People’s Struggle Committee demanding permanent closure of Sterlite’s Copper smelter. According to reports only a few medical shops and others selling essentials remain open, and police have been deployed around the town.
Residents have shut their town in response to last week’s Supreme Court order which allowed Vedanta’s Sterlite plant to continue operating but pay 100 crore rupee ($2 million) compensation for environmental violations including a major gas leak on 23rd March. Residents say there is no price for their health and safety and demand the plant is closed.
In the meantime a team of seven local people, including ex-workers from Sterlite’s plant have collected almost 200 testimonies from those affected by the gas leak in villages around the factory. These reports will add to a weight of evidence against the Tuticorin plant for repeat abuses of law, workers deaths and environmental catastrophes.
The Sterlite plant was closed by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) on 30th March following the major gas leak on the 23rd. Sterlite are appealing against this decision at the National Green Tribunal on April 9th. They will seek an injunction against the TNPCB order.
Local political leader Vaiko is also lobbying the Customs Commissioner and Chairman of the Tuticorin Port Trust to oppose the permission given by the agencies for Sterlite to continue importing copper concentrate even when a closure order by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board is in force.
Foil Vedanta stand in solidarity with residents of Thoothkudi and wish them every success.