The Supreme Court has ordered the 154 tannery owners based in Hazaribagh, Dhaka to each pay a daily fine of Tk10,000 as compensation for causing harm to the environment – until they relocate to Savar.
A four-member bench of the Appellate Division headed by Chief Justice SK Sinha issued the order yesterday morning, reducing the fine from Tk50,000 fixed earlier by the High Court.
The court also directed the authorities concerned to redirect half of the money to Bangladesh Liver Foundation and the rest to the government fund.
After the verdict, leaders of Bangladesh Tanners Association and Bangladesh Finished Leather, Leather Goods and Footwear Exporters Association said they may file a review petition after obtaining the full text of the order.
“We are hoping to move to Savar industrial park before Eid-ul-Azha. The rawhides collected from the sacrificed cattle will be processed there,” said Md Shakhawat Ullah, general secretary at Bangladesh Tanners Association.
Earlier, tannery owners filed a petition against a High Court ruling that ordered each tannery to pay a daily fine of Tk50,000.
During the hearing, defence counsel Barrister Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh said: “The [tannery] owners have been trying day and night to relocate their tanneries [to Savar]. But the government has yet to finish the work of CETPs [common effluent treatment plants] there. The owners will move as soon as the work is complete.”
He also requested the court not to consider tannery owners as criminals.
The court asked him if they had deposited the compensation money; the counsel replied no.
On June 16, the High Court ordered Hazaribagh tannery owners to deposit the daily compensation until they relocated their factories to Savar Tannery Industrial Estate, as per the government decision.
The High Court also ordered the industries secretary to submit a report by July 17 on whether the owners had paid the fine and asked the environment secretary to file a separate report on the damage the tanneries had inflicted on the Buriganga River by the same deadline.
The court issued the ruling after hearing a petition filed by Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh against the 154 tanneries in Hazaribagh which have not yet relocated to Savar despite a court order.
The government decided to relocate tanneries from Hazaribagh to Savar to save the rivers and people living in Hazaribagh from health hazards, after a long-standing demand from environmentalists and rights groups.
The government has already allocated plots to 155 tannery owners through Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industry Corporation (BSCIC) at the industrial park established on a 200-acre land in Savar.
The Industries Ministry previously extended the deadline for relocation several times, but decided to go tough against the errant tanners recently, considering the damage to the environment.
Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh's counsel Manzil Murshid told reporters that the Supreme Court verdict is a big progress in implementing the government's decision of moving tanneries outside of the city.
He said according to the industries secretary's report, which was submitted before the court, the construction of CETPs at the new site is already finished.