Thousands of people- young and old- gathered near the Chidambaram Nagar bus stand in Thoothukudi district on Saturday. Know why this mass crowd are gathering and protesting and Shouting slogans, cheering speakers ?? The protesters had two demands: the expansion plans of the Sterlite Copper Plant in the district should be stopped and the plant itself should be shut down.
People from the Kumarattiyapuram village have been protesting against gas leaks and bad effluent management for many years. On Sunday, shops in Tuticorin remained shut following a call given by activists against the Sterlite Industries copper plant.
Around 15,000 people gathered for the protest meeting on Saturday night demanding the closure of a copper smelting plant. R Shanthi, a young mother, said, “The factory has caused enough damage to the environment. It’s proven in court. The government should not renew its licence after the 25 year period.”
With people from all walks of life extending support to the villagers from Kumarattiyapuram village, the town also witnessed a complete shutdown. According to The News Minute People from the village have been protesting against noxious gas leaks and bad effluent management for more than two decades now.
In March 2013, hundreds of people complained of breathing difficulty, nausea and throat infection following an alleged gas leak from the Sterlite Industries plant. Though the plant was ordered to shut down following allegations that it was violating pollution control norms, the National Green Tribunal had ultimately allowed the plant to be reopened. The same year, in another case spearheaded by MDMK party Chief Vaiko, the Supreme Court had fined the plant Rs. 100 crore for the pollution over the years. However, at that time Sterlite, run by the Vedanta group, had claimed it adheres to pollution control norms.
According to media reports, over 12,000 shops were shut for business on the main and arterial roads. Auto rickshaws, minivans in the area did not operate, bringing transportation to a halt. The villagers slammed the government for inaction over the spread of diseases on account of the pollution. The protestors also emphasised on the contaminated groundwater in the area.
Speaking to the media, Fathima Babu of the Anti Killer Sterlite People’s Movement said, “There are lot of environmental dangers as well as health dangers, particularly cancer. Almost every house is affected by cancer. Children are most affected. Throat cancer has increased. Eye cancer has also gone up. All this is strange and shocking. We have taken the decision that this district can no longer tolerate this. We have entered the field. The trader’s association has played a big role today by shutting shop and striking.”