The High Court on Monday asked the government to immediately shut down all the tanneries at Hazaribagh in Dhaka as they missed several deadlines for relocation to the Tannery Industrial Park at Savar. The court, however, ordered, as New Age reported on Tuesday, an immediate halt of utility supplies to the errant tanneries. The environment department director general has also been ordered to report the compliance with the order by April 6 while home and industries secretaries, the inspector general of police and the Dhaka Metropolitan Police commissioner have been asked to cooperate with the environment department in closing down the tanneries. The court order came on a petition filed by the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers’ Association on January 3. On a petition earlier filed by the same organisation, the court on June 23, 2009 ordered the tanneries to move to Savar by 2010. Besides, the court in October 2010 gave the tanneries six more months for the relocation. But, keeping to government data submitted earlier to the court, only 43 tanneries have so far relocated to Savar and the remaining factories kept running at Hazaribagh.
Meanwhile, the court imposed a daily fine of Tk 50,000 on the errant tanneries on June 16, 2016, although, in reply to an appeal from the Bangladesh Tanners’ Association, the Appellate Division on July 18, 2016 reduced the fine to Tk 10,000 for each errant tannery. The tanners even then failed to comply with this order as well. Against the backdrop, another High Court bench on March 2 asked the owners of 154 tanneries at Hazaribagh to deposit Tk 30.85 crore as fine in arrears with the treasury in two weeks for polluting the environment as a consequence of repeated relocation failures. It is important to note that the government also time and again extended the deadline for the relocation of the tanneries and the latest extended deadline will expire on March 31, although the government cannot do so without court’s permission. However, reports have it that most of the errant 154 tanneries are likely to miss the government deadline as well.
Overall, it is high time that the errant tanneries were forced to relocate to the new place. It is possible if the court strictly monitors the compliance with its orders at hand. The government, showing no leniency towards the tanners, many of whom reportedly enjoy political clout, should also comply with the court orders to the letter and in spirit in this direction while conscious sections of society need to raise their voice in a sustained manner on the issue. It cannot be overstated that the tanneries have been hugely polluting not only the densely populated area they have for long been located in but also the River Buriganga that flows by. If the tanneries are allowed to continue to operate here, it, along with some other problems, may end up posing a threat even to the existence of the city.
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