Tamil Nadu orders shut down of Sterlite copper plant

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Residents and environmentalists have been protesting for the past three months against plans to double the capacity of the copper plant that they say is contaminating the air and fisheries around the site.

The government of Tamil Nadu, Union ministry of environment, forests and climate change, the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board and the Tuticorin district administration are squarely responsible for allowing the situation to get to this unfortunate state by allowing Vedanta Sterlite to violate environmental and land use planning laws with impunity for over two decades. Vedanta Ltd, the parent company of Sterlite Copper, is a subsidiary of the UK-based conglomerate, Vedanta Resources Plc.

The protesters had set ablaze the local administrator's office after they were denied permission to hold a rally at the plant.

Home minister of the state, Palaniswami told media that the police had to take action under unavoidable circumstances to protect public life and property as the protesters resorted to repeated violence.

A day after the violence, the Madurai bench of the Madras high court passed an interim order on a public interest litigation (PIL), staying the expansion of the plant. The deputy CM spoke to reporters in Thoothukudi and said that compensation to the injured were being paid.

"The news from Tamil Nadu that 13 protesters against Vedanta have been killed is shocking and demands action", said John McDonnell, Labour's Shadow Chancellor.

"We are further studying the order and shall keep the stock exchanges updated on any developments", Vedanta said in a filing to the exchanges late in the evening.

Toothkudi (Tutocorin)'s Superintendent of Police, Thiru P Mahendran, and Collector, N Venkatesh, were on Wednesday evening transferred over the killing of 12 people in police firing during the anti-Sterlite protest in the city. "We will take all possible steps to ensure that the Sterlite copper plant is shut down in Tuticorin", he said.

The head of the national opposition Congress party, Rahul Gandhi, condemned the use of lethal force, calling it "a brutal example of state-sponsored terrorism".

About 102 protesters were also injured in the clashes, while 19 sustained serious injuries.

Tamil Nadu is one of India's most industrialised and prosperous states, and similar protests over environmental concerns have turned deadly.

The company's operational licence had expired in April and the company was waiting for the government to renew it. Residents living in towns and villages nearby have long alleged that the plant had damaged their health, water, and environment. Days later, India's Supreme Court ordered the company to pay damages of 100 crore rupees ($15 million) for environmental rehabilitation measures.