HC order to shut down Hazaribagh tanneries

DHAKA, March 6, 2017 (BSS) - The High Court (HC) today ordered the government to close down all the tanneries operating in capital's Hazaribagh area, cutting off their electricity, gas and water lines.

A High Court division bench comprising Justice Syed Refaat Ahmed and Justice Md Salim came up with the order following the hearing on a writ petition filed by Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA).

"The High Court in October, 2010, had given six months time to the owners of the Hazaribagh tanneries to relocate their businesses from the area. That means, the tannery owners are carrying out their businesses there illegally since April 30, 2011.

"In spite of that the government had given them time till March 31, 2017, to relocate without the permission of the court. So we had challenged government's decision. Accepting our plea, the court has ordered to shut down all the tanneries in that area," said BELA chief executive Syeda Rezwana Hasan.

The court ordered the Director General (DG) of Department of Environment to comply with the order, asking Home and Industries Secretaries, Inspector General of Police and Dhaka Metropolitan Police Commissioner to assist him.

The court asked the Environment DG to submit a report on compliance of court's order on April 6. Another report was sought from Ministry of Industries on kind of assistance different government agencies are getting from each other in obstructing the tanneries to bring raw hide for processing in Hazaribagh area.

Meanwhile, a different bench of the High Court on March 2 ordered 154 tanneries located in that area to deposit Taka 30.85 crore in fine for damaging environment to state exchequer in two weeks.

A High Court division bench comprising Justice Md Ashfaqul Islam and Justice Ashish Ranjan Das passed the order acting on a writ petition filed by Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh (HRPB).

Earlier on July 18, 2016, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court ordered the owners of those tanneries to pay Taka 10,000 to state exchequer each per day until they relocate their factories to Savar.

The Appellate Division had passed the order following an appeal filed by the tannery owners against the High Court order that had asked them to pay Taka 50,000 each daily to compensate the damage they are doing to environment.

Industries secretary Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan on February 13 had appeared before the court and said the due fine of the 154 tanneries operating in Hazaribagh now stands at Taka 30.85 crore.

According to the report submitted by the industries secretary, 150 tanneries have deposited Taka 10 thousand each in August, 2016. Only four companies paid the fine in September and three in October.

The High Court in 2001 ordered the tannery owners to relocate their factories from Hazaribagh. The court in 2009, again ordered the relocation of the tanneries by February 24, 2010. Later, the timeframe was extended up to April 30, 2011. But as the latest order too was not complied with, HRPB filed a contempt of court case on April 15, 2014.

On April 13, 2016, the court sought a list of tanners who are still doing businesses in Hazaribagh, from the Industries Secretary. Following the order, the secretary submitted a list of 155 tanners, of which only one has relocated from the area.

Source: Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS)