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The Supreme Court Friday asked the National Environmental Engineering Research Institute (NEERI) to carry out a ‘more detailed inspection’ of the pollution allegedly being caused by a Tuticorin-based copper smelting plant.

The smelting plant belongs to Sterlite Industries.

Justice R.V. Raveendran and Justice A.K. Patnaik asked NEERI to carry out detailed inspection with reference to its own earlier report and that of the Central Pollution Control Board (CPCB) and Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board (TNPCB).

The court said the institute will carry out the inspection after notifying CPCB, TNPCB and the petitioner. The court, however, noted that the earlier report of NEERI was itself conflicting.

The apex court also ordered the inspection by NEERI after it observed that there were conflicting reports by CPCB and TNPCB.

When senior counsel C.S. Sundram argued against the TNPCB report and the assertion of the petitioner, the court observed: ‘One way could be to close the company for some time and see the effect.’

The apex court by its earlier interim order of Oct 1, 2010, had stayed the operation of Madras High Court order directing the closure of the Starlite Copper Smelting plant. The high court by it Sep 28, 2010 order had directed the immediate closure of the plant.

In the course of the hearing, CPCB contended that by increasing the height of the plant’s chimneys the harmful effect of the harmful gases could be taken care of.

Justice Raveendran asked the CPCB counsel how could that be done by increasing the height of the chimneys from 50 feet to 100 feet.

When the court was told that the findings by CPCB too were by experts, the court observed that ‘at times even experts do take sides’.

The apex court was also told that the emission of gases was seriously affecting the health of the people and the crop in the area.

Sundram pointed out that the sample tests revealed there was no copper in the residue of the copper ore.

The court then observed: ‘How can it be there you have extracted the entire copper from it.’

Tuticorn-based Sterlite Industries gets its copper ore from Australia which is smelted in Tamil Nadu for further use.

Justice Patnaik remarked: ‘New thinking in the Western world is not to have smelting or big industry in their own country and set them up in India.’

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