New Delhi: The Union Environment Ministry had given clearance to the controversial Sterlite plant in Tamil Nadu's Thoothukudi after getting a go-ahead from the state pollution control board, an official said on Friday, dismissing the allegations that the central government had directly cleared the copper smelting unit.
"No unit can operate in India, primarily, without the environmental clearance by the local pollution control board and this forms the basis for us to give environmental clearances," the official said, requesting anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media on the issue.
He, however, admitted that no public consultation had been conducted when the clearance was given in 2009.
The plant on Tuesday triggered the widespread protest in Thoothukudi, in which the death toll has rised to 13. The Madras High Court on Wednesday ordered a stay on the expansion of the copper plant.
In reply to a question on why the plant had not been initially ordered to shut down, the official said: "We need to check the records (to know that)."
"We have already sought a report from the District Collector and Tamil Nadu Pollution Control Board," said the official on the sidelines of a curtain raiser press conference in the run-up to World Environment Day by Environment Forest and Climate Change Minister Harsh Vardhan.
The minister, however, refused to take media queries about the violence and the operations of the Vedanta-run copper plant.
"Let's stick to the theme and do not deviate from the topic," he said in reply to questions about the issue.