NEW DELHI: Noting groundwater contamination in an around the Sterlite Copper plant at Tuticorin in Tamil Nadu, the government on Monday told the Rajya Sabha that the analysis of samples from the unit showed the presence of heavy metals in water beyond permissible limit.
“The analysis of groundwater samples, from the Sterlite industrial unit, by the State Pollution Control Board shows presence of Iron, Lead, Fluoride, Cadmium, and Nickel more than the permissible limit of BIS (Bureau of Indian Standards),” said minister of state for water resources Arjun Ram Meghwal while referring to information received from the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB).
He was responding to a Parliament Question, asked by the AIADMK member in the Upper House, Sasikala Pushpa Ramaswamy. She asked whether the government has initiated any step to check the nature of groundwater in Thoothukudi (Tuticorin) in the backdrop of agitation against the plant alleging that groundwater has been contaminated due to the pollution from the factory.
Meghwal, in his written response, said, “The Central Ground Water Board (CGWB) has carried out a study to ascertain the groundwater quality in and around the State Industries Promotion Corporation of Tamil Nadu (SIPCOT) industrial area, Thoothukudi (wherein, M/s Sterlite industry is one of the industry).
“The study indicates that most of the groundwater samples are contaminated with high TDS and heavy metals like Lead, Cadmium, Chromium, Manganese, Iron, and Arsenic, which are beyond permissible limits of BIS Standards for drinking water”.
On actions taken by the government, the minister said, “ The Central & State Pollution Control Boards are controlling industrial pollution under the provision of Water (Prevention and Control of Pollution), Act, 1974.”
As many as 13 people were killed in police firing in Tuticorin on May 22 after protests for the closure of the plant over pollution concerns turned violent. The residents of the area had protested against the proposed doubling of capacity of the Sterlite copper plant.
The unit was, however, closed down by the Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB) “due to non-compliance of consent conditions” the next day.
Asked about the environment ministry’s stand, an official said, “We have received a report of the TNPCB. We have been examining it as the matter is sub judice. We will strictly follow the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) notification, 2006 while firming up our stand.”
The EIA, made under the Environment Protection Act, 1986, is considered a major tool for minimizing the adverse impact of industrialization on the environment.