It asked the DoE to give environmental clearance within 60 days
Despite describing the Sundarbans as the "lungs of Bangladesh," the High Court has asked the Department of Environment (DoE) to grant environmental clearance to three private companies, so they may set up their factories in the Sundarbans Ecologically Critical Area (ECA).
The companies are TMSS LPG limited, Baraka Limited and Delta LPG Limited. They are all LPG bottling plants, and the DoE has been instructed to grant them clearance within 60 days.
The court also observed that if the government wished to stop or limit the set up of factories inside the ECA, then this ruling would not serve a bar to the government’s decision.
The High Court bench of Justice FRM Nazmul Ahsan and Justice KM Kamrul Kader gave the order and made the observations on Tuesday.
Subsequently, the state lawyer told reporters that they would file an appeal against the High Court order with the Supreme Court.
Barrister Shafique Ahmed and Barrister Mahbub Shafiq stood for Delta LPG limited, while Barrister Munirujjaman stood for TMSS LPG limited and Baraka Limited. Attorney General Mahbubey Alam represented the state, accompanied by Deputy Attorney General ABM Abdullah-Al-Mahmud Bashar.
During the hearing, the attorney general told the court: “The Sundarbans has already been listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO. For this reason, Bangladesh is enjoying various facilities. If factories are established in the ECA, then the Sundarbans will disappear.”
He also informed the court that 154 factories are currently operating in the Sundarbans ECA.
However, the court said it was discrimination to give clearance to some companies and not to others, and discrimination is not allowed.
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Furthermore, the court said LPG bottling plants were previously categorized as red, but the government moved them into the green category recently.
The court also said that the companies were only being given environmental clearance as others had been granted the clearance previously.
“It was not right to give clearance to the other companies in the first place,” it added.
Moreover, the court did not grant a prayer by the attorney general to formulate an expert committee to assess the risk posed by the factories to the ECA.
Last year, TMSS LPG Ltd and Baraka Ltd filed writ petitions seeking permission to set up factories near the Sundarbans, as 154 companies had previously been given permission. Another company, Delta LPG, filed a similar petition this year.
On August 24, 2017, the High Court directed the government not to approve any industry within 10km of the Sundarbans, and to submit a list of establishments already built in the area.
Currently, the Bangladesh Environment Conservation (amendment) Act, 2010 prohibits any factory within the ECA.