What is the significance of ISO 14001 in the recent case of Sterlite Copper factory close-down?
The problem of Environmental degradation is one of the direst problems of mankind. With the level of carbon emissions worldwide reaching an alarming rate after every successive year, the plight is critical and worth considering as it is posing a grave threat to our ailing planet. In this regard, the fact can never be overlooked is that India has thus far, been one of the topmost contributors to the global carbon emissions. The industrial sector has the greatest portion of the total carbon footprint. The need to conform to ISO standards for environmental management is therefore inevitable.
As per the 2018 data provided by Reuters, India is at 4th position as regards annual carbon footprint and was succeeded by Germany, with annual carbon emission amassing to 274 million metric tons. In 2016, India had ranked 3rd in this regard, succeeded by US & China respectively. The concerns over the rising contamination of air are becoming widespread among the populace, as can be perceived from the recent case of the closure of the Sterlite Copper factory of the Vedanta Resources Group due to the bitter agitation of the local residents of Tuticorin.
#1. What is the reason for the closure of the Sterlite Copper factory?
The decision to permanently close down the operations of the Sterlite Copper factory of Tuticorin has come at the backdrop of violent clashes involving the death of 13 persons in the police firing at the agitation for closedown of the factory.
The reason behind the agitation was that the owners of the factory had not met the environment-related conditions of the National Green Tribunal (NGT) and the TNPCB. The locals dwelling around the unit have been complaining of chronic symptoms of ailments, including headache, coughing and choking due to the toxic fumes emitted from the unit since the past 22 years. Their complaints were, however, fallen upon deaf ears, which provoked them to protest bitterly till 100 days.
It was finally on 29th May 2018, that the factory was sealed after the Tamil Nadu government order.
#2. How has Sterlite Copper factory been a bane to the environment?
The copper smelting factory has been shut down several times before due to the detrimental effect of its operations on the environment. In 1998, the operations of the factory were suspended on the order of Madras High Court on following grounds-
- Contaminating of the groundwater with arsenic, lead, selenium, cadmium, aluminum and copper & other toxins and
- Constant air pollution by noxious effluents that are likely to cause cancer, as quoted by environmental agencies.
Though the industrialists have argued that over ₹500 crore has been invested in environmental protection measures, quoting it the highest investment by any industry. Despite this effect, the symptoms of health ailments have risen constantly in the area. Abiding by the ISO 14001 guidelines could, however, prevent further Environmental degradation.
#3. How will the decision affect the economy?
Economists have argued the closure of the factory will effect ⅓ of domestic supply but will also cause a spurt in domestic prices, and will affect India’s forex reserve. Additionally, Vedanta's copper smelter serves over 800 MSMEs, and over 32,500 jobs could be affected.
#4. What could be the solution to this growing problem?
It is a case of sheer negligence of Environmental management guidelines, which could be rectified with an ISO certification.
ISO 14001 emphasizes on the implementation of Environmental management directives. A sincere effort to abide by these benchmarks and resolution for Environmental conservation can not only save our ailing planet but also helps in the smooth running of business operations.
Besides, it largely increases the client’s trust factor on the products & services of an entity, by satisfying their safety concerns. This booms the customer satisfaction, which is the ultimate end of ISO certification 9001.
Surely, the aforesaid recent incident will urge you to get an ISO 14001 certification for your organization.
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