The Supreme Court has upheld a High Court order that asked the government to shut down all 154 tanneries in Hazaribagh, Dhaka and cut off their utility connections immediately.
A three-member Appellate Division bench led by Chief Justice Surendra Kumar Sinha passed the order on Sunday rejecting a petition filed by Bangladesh Finished Leather, Leather Goods and Footwear Exporters Association for a stay on the High Court order.
Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers’ Association (BELA) Chief Executive Syeda Rizwana Hasan, who had filed the earlier petition with the High Court, confirmed the decision to the Dhaka Tribune.
She said the Department of Environment authorities must shut down the tanneries at Hazaribagh and disconnect their utility services in accordance with the SC order.
Rizwana told Dhaka Tribune that the reasonable deadline of shifting the tanneries had passed many months ago.
“They did not take any measures to relocate the tanneries, but rather wasted time, which is a clear violation of court's order,” she explained.
“The environment needs to be protected, so we cannot be lenient toward these tanneries.”
On March 6, a High Court bench of Justice Syed Refaat Ahmed and Justice Md Salim issued the order after hearing BELA’s petition.
The court also instructed the home and industries secretaries, the inspector general of police and the DMP commissioner to assist the Department of Environment (DoE) in complying with the order.
The DoE director general has been instructed to submit a report on the compliance of the order before the court by April 6.
Also Read- HC: Shut down Hazaribagh tanneries immediately
The court sought another report from the Ministry of Industries on whether the authorities concerned have been helping the ministry in barring the supply of rawhides to the Hazaribagh tanneries, in accordance with a previous directive.
The court scheduled the next hearing on the issue on April 10.
On March 2, another High Court bench ordered the Hazaribagh tanneries to pay an overdue fine of Tk30.85 crore within two weeks “or face serious consequences.”
These tanneries were fined Tk50,000 per day in June last year for not following the court directive, but the High Court revised the amount to Tk10,000 in July.
Earlier, the High Court in October 2010 set a six-month deadline for the tanneries in Hazaribagh to relocate to Savar, because of the immense damage they cause to the environment in the area.
Going by that order, the tanneries should have moved from Hazaribagh by April 30, 2011. The government has however extended the deadline several times.
The latest extension came in December last year, when the Industries Ministry issued a notice to the tannery owners to move out of Hazaribagh by March 31 this year.
According the government, 155 tannery owners have been allocated plots on the 200 acre Leather Industrial Park in Savar. Gas connections are being provided to tanneries in Savar on a priority basis and 44 tanneries has already received electric connections. The electricity distribution authorities have said there are no pending applications.
However, tannery owners claim that not only have the owners not received compensation from the government, only two out of 120 tanneries who applied for gas had received connections. They have also claimed that the government has not registered the land in Savar which was allotted to the tanneries.
The tannery owners' court petition to be allowed time till June before utilities connections at the Hazaribagh tanneries were cut off, has been rejected by the court.