Pay fine until relocation
With tanners dithering over relocation of their factories to Savar, the High Court yesterday ordered the owners of 154 tanneries in the capital's Hazaribagh to pay Tk 50,000 each a day in compensation for damaging the environment in the area.
The owners will have to deposit the money with the state exchequer from the date of receiving copies of the HC order until relocation of their factories to Savar Tannery Industrial Estate.
The HC order came following a petition by Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh.
The court also ordered the environment secretary to assess the environmental damage caused by the tannery industry to the Buriganga River, and submit a report to it by July 17.
Shaheen Ahmed, president of Bangladesh Tanners Association, told BBC Bangla Service last night that they would file an appeal with the Supreme Court against the HC order.
Over the last one decade, the tanners had missed more than a dozen deadlines for shifting their factories to Savar. None of them have completed construction of factory buildings there though the last deadline set by the government for relocation expired on March 31 this year.
Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC), the government agency responsible for implementing the tannery estate project, approved the lay-out plan of 152 industrial units in Savar. Of those, 148 units are now under construction, according to BSCIC officials.
Shaheen told BBC Bangla service that they would need time till December this year to shift all the tanneries to Savar.
It is not possible to relocate the tanneries right away, as a lot of work is still to be done for this, added the tanners association leader.
The tanneries in Hazaribagh area release thousands of litres of untreated and toxic waste to the Buriganga River every day, posing a serious risk to humans and the aquatic life.
Taking into account the health and environmental hazards caused by the tanneries, the government in 2003 took up a project to relocate those to Savar.
The project was first scheduled to be completed by December 2005. But the deadline was extended more than a dozen times at the request of the tanners.
Yesterday, the HC bench of Justice Syed Muhammad Dastagir Husain and Justice AKM Shahidul Huq directed the industries secretary to submit to it by July 17 a report on the implementation of the HC directives.
Talking to The Daily Star, Manzill Murshid, counsel for the HRPB, said he would move a petition before the HC, seeking its order for sending the tanners to jail if they don't pay the compensation every day.
The industries secretary yesterday submitted to the court a list of 154 tanneries, which are still operating in Hazaribagh area in violation of the HC orders, he added.
Earlier, the HC directed the industries secretary twice to provide it with the names and addresses of the businessmen who are operating tanneries in Hazaribagh.
In 2001 and 2009, the HC directed the government to take steps to relocate the tanneries to Savar by 2010. The court later extended the deadline until 2013.
But in violation of the HC directives, the tanneries are still being run which is tantamount to contempt of court, he said.
During the hearing, Manzill said the government had not taken any initiative to relocate the hazardous tanneries to Savar though the HC asked it several times to do so.
He prayed to the court for directing the tannery owners to pay the government Tk 1 lakh each a day in compensation for polluting the environment.
Raisuddin Ahmed, lawyer for the industries secretary, told the court that the government has been working to implement the HC orders.
Following a contempt petition moved by the HRPB, the HC bench on April 10 issued arrest warrants for three tannery owners -- Abdul Wadud Mia of Mahin Tannery, Abdul Wahab of Nabipur Tannery and Mafiz Mia of Asia Tannery -- for failing to comply with the HC directive on relocation of tanneries.
The same day, the bench kept three other tannery owners in custody for over five hours for not implementing the 2001 judgment on relocation of factories to Savar.
They are Mahbubur Rahman Panna of Pubali Tanneries, Giasuddin Ahmed Pathan of Rumi Leather Industries Ltd and Akbar Hossain of Paramount Tannery.