Death toll from anti-Vedanta protests in south India rises to 13

Police officials use ‘lathis’ — long bamboo sticks — as they clash with protesters in the southern Indian city of Tuticorin during a rally to demand the closure of a Vedanta Resources copper factory due to pollution concerns. (AFP)
Updated 24 May 2018
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Death toll from anti-Vedanta protests in south India rises to 13

TUTICORIN, India: A protester shot during demonstrations against a copper plant in southern India died of his injuries Thursday, officials said, the 13th victim killed by police fire.
A curfew remained in pockets of Tuticorin city in Tamil Nadu state where police used live ammunition to disperse protesters this week, provoking international outrage and demands for an immediate investigation.
Calls for the copper smelting plant owned by British mining giant Vedanta Resources to be closed had been building in recent months, with residents complaining it was polluting their city.
The resistance came to a head Tuesday when police stopped a crowd of thousands from protesting outside the factory.
Cars and buildings were set ablaze and rocks hurled at police, who responded with live fire. Eleven demonstrators were shot dead and many people injured in the melee, including 20 police.
Another protester died Wednesday when he was struck by rubber bullets in a second day of protests.
The latest victim died in hospital Thursday, two days after being injured, doctors said.
“He was brought in a critical condition with bullet injuries and died today,” a doctor at the local hospital said.
The chief minister of Tamil Nadu has ordered an inquiry but defended the actions of police, which the state’s opposition leader called “mass murder.”
“The police have a duty during protests to maintain law and order, but lethal force can only be used if there is an imminent threat to life,” Meenakshi Ganguly, South Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said.
“Tamil Nadu authorities need to carry out a prompt and credible investigation to determine if police used excessive force.”
Internet services have been blocked across the city for five days. Police justified the blackout to stop the spread of information that could incite further violence as they search for those behind Tuesday’s arson attacks.
Environmentalists and locals say the factory contaminates water and air, claims its owners deny.
The company has sought to renew the license of the temporarily non-operational plant and hopes to double its production capacity.
But a state court Wednesday ordered that it cease any further construction at the new site.
The ruling came just hours after Tamil Nadu’s pollution board ordered the existing plant be shut and its power supply cut until a verdict is made on its licensing application.


Delhi braces for pollution with emergency plan

Updated 15 October 2018
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Delhi braces for pollution with emergency plan

  • Under the new strategy, restrictions on construction sites and traffic will be imposed depending on the air quality

NEW DELHI, India: Delhi’s biggest coal power plant was set to shut down Monday as a new emergency plan to improve air quality in one of the world’s most polluted cities came into force, Indian officials said.
Under the new strategy, restrictions on construction sites and traffic will be imposed depending on the air quality in the megacity of some 20 million people.
When the air is classed as “poor,” as it was on Monday, authorities will ban the burning of garbage in landfills as well as fire crackers and certain construction activities.
When the air is “very poor” diesel generators will be halted, parking fees hiked and more public transport provided. “Severe” measures include closing brick kilns.
When it reaches “severe+,” a new category, authorities will stop the entry of trucks except those with essential goods and regulate the number of cars on the road.
The Badarpur thermal plant was due to permanently close on Monday because of its high contribution to pollution in the city.
Smog spikes during winter in Delhi, when air quality often eclipses the World Health Organization’s safe levels.
Cooler air traps pollutants — such as from vehicles, building sites and farmers burning crops in regions outside the Indian capital — close to the ground.
Authorities in the sprawling city attempted to implement similar measures last winter but to little avail.
This is partly because authorities are powerless to prevent some sources of pollution.
“Our aim is to stop the air quality from deteriorating further though certain factors are out of our control such as crop burning, wind speed and lack of public transportation,” environment authority official Bhure Lal said.