Police personnel baton charge at protestors who were demanding the closure of Vedanta’s Sterlite Copper unit in Tuticorin. (PTI Photo)

Polluter Has To Pay For His Sins, Says Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan 

India is studying the fallout of protests against billionaire Anil Agarwal-led Vedanta Ltd.’s copper unit in Tuticorin, Tamil Nadu and is evaluating its future policy response for polluting industries.

The government will adopt a pragmatic approach on issues of pollution and all stakeholders’ concerns will be considered, Union Environment Minister Harsh Vardhan said in an interview to BloombergQuint.

“I think the general principle all over the world is the polluter has to pay for the sins he commits,” he said. “For those who behave sincerely, honestly and committedly in society, they should not be paying for sins of others who are all the time flouting rules and laws and creating problems.”

The minister said authorities at “every level” are looking into the specifics of Sterlite Copper Ltd.’s plant and allegations of pollution. “The Tamil Nadu government has taken a call on this issue and we’ll look at every aspect,” he said, without divulging further details.

The state directed the pollution control board to seal the 400,000 metric-tonne-a-year smelter in Tuticorin in the interest of the people, it said on May 28. Thirteen people died at the site last week after police opened fire as locals protested against alleged pollution.

“It is very unfortunate that so many people have lost their lives,” the minister said.

Also read: Five Times Vedanta Triggered Environment Worries

UN Environment Expresses Concern

The head of UN Environment, Erik Solheim, too expressed concern over the violence and loss of life at Tuticorin. “No one should die in the pursuit of environment fairness,” Solheim said in an interview.

The police should have shown restraint and not resorted to violence, he said. “The strong message now is to calm the situation down and for the government of Tamil Nadu to resolve the environment issue.”

The head of UN Environment believes a dialogue between various stakeholders—businesses, government and citizens—is necessary when there is such a conflict of views.

Also read: Tamil Nadu Cancels Land Allotment To Vedanta’s Sterlite Plant As Opposition Stages Protests