'You are killing us by not curbing air pollution'
The High Court today rebuked and expressed severe annoyance at the Department of Environment for not taking any effective steps to curb air pollution in Dhaka despite repeated directives.
"Air pollution in Dhaka was at the top in the world this morning too, though we had issued specific directives at different times to control the pollution. There is no reflection of the directives.
"They (DoE officials) have responsibility to control the pollution. They are neither abiding by the law, nor complying with the court orders. Then what is the need for the court? You are killing us by not curbing the air pollution, as this pollution is making the public health very risky. Please, save us from this alarming situation," the HC bench of Justice KM Kamrul Kader and Justice Mohammad Ali told DoE's lawyer Amatul Karim Swapna while hearing a writ petition.
The lawyer submitted a compliance report before the HC bench saying that the DoE has been conducting drives against the illegal brick kilns in order to control the air pollution though the department has manpower crisis.
In January this year, the DoE has demolished five illegal brick kilns and conducted seven drives against different the air polluting structures and fined them Tk 7.33 lakh since January 25 to January 31 this year.
A high-powered national committee led by the cabinet has been formed to curb the air pollution and steps have been taken to build awareness about the environment pollution, the DoE lawyer said citing the compliance report.
The HC bench asked the lawyer whether the high-powered committee was formed only to drink tea.
"Tell us what have you done to control the pollution. If we call the cabinet secretary here, will it be decent?
"They (DoE officials) are paid crores of taka as salary, but there is no progress in preventing the pollution. Those people whose children live aboard will go there are saved. We cannot go abroad. The pharmaceuticals companies in the country and India will benefit from the air pollution, as the companies can earn money by selling medicines, and India can earn money by treating the ailing people of Bangladesh due to the environment pollution," Justice KM Kamrul Kader said.
The HC bench said, "If there is no political will, no progress will take place. Please, try to save the country. Don't become master, try to be service provider. The public administration ministry could not assign magistrates to conduct mobile courts against the air polluters though there are reportedly few hundred magistrates on deputation."
The court ordered the authorities concerned of the government and Dhaka city corporations to comply with its previous directives to control the air pollution in Dhaka in the next two weeks and fixed February 22 for passing further order on this issue.
Following the same writ petition filed by Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh (HRPB), the HC in February 2021 ordered the Fire Service and Civil Defence to take necessary steps to spray water with its vehicles on roads at the entrances to the capital, including Gabotli, Jatrabari, Purbachal, Keraniganj, and Tongi, on an urgent basis.
The fire service will do the job without compromising their main duty of dousing flames, the HC said.
It ordered the managing director of Dhaka Water Supply and Sewerage Authority (Wasa) to take measures for supplying sufficient water to Dhaka city corporations for spraying on streets.
The court also asked the Dhaka north and south city corporations to spray water on streets in such a way that small trees planted on the central reservations can also benefit.
In January 2020, the HC had ordered the government to reduce air pollution in and around the capital and asked the DoE to shut illegal brick kilns in Dhaka and surrounding four districts—Gazipur, Narayanganj, Munshiganj, Gazipur, and Manikganj.
Lawyer Manzill Murshid appeared for the writ petitioner, while Deputy Attorney General Abdullah Al Mahmud Bashar represented the government and lawyers Zobair Hossain Sajib and Md Shahidul Islam Sohag stood for Dhaka south city corporation during the hearing.