Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association chief executive Syeda Rizwana Hasan said that the executive branches of the government were not implementing the existing law to protect environment and disrespectful to court in implementing orders to stop river pollution.
She said that the executive departments were uncaring and showed no intention to pay heed to court orders as they believed that they had the power to control everything while they were under the political shelter.
‘As each day passes by, they (executive departments of the government) show a blatant disregard for the court’s order and the court, thereby undermining or attempting to undermine one of the pillars of the state which is completely unacceptable,’ she said.
As a result, she argued, following any court order the government seemed to search for a way to delay implementation of the orders to give advantage to the polluters, especially industrialists.
She said that court gave some milestone judgement for saving rivers of the country but none of them were implemented over the years.
In 2012, the HC ordered to evict the Madhumoti Model Town, a housing project on the wetland at Savar, but the order was not executed, she mentioned by way of an example.
Rizwana said that the implementation of law depended on the state of democracy. When a government has no sense of accountability to the people, it took decisions not for the people but for the vested quarters.
She said it mostly depended on the political will of government to implement any law or court order.
The green activist said that a master plan of 15 to 20 years is enough for any government to save any river from pollution and grabbing in any country, but none of the rivers in Bangladesh were now pollution-free. After having passed many laws, especially the environment protection law in 1995, the situation did not improve.
She said that the government was doing things on a piecemeal basis, which ultimately failed to check pollution further deteriorating the environmental situation.
In 2000, the High Court ordered to stop the Buriganga pollution and grabbing. The government agencies ran eviction drives and demolished structures but the grabbers made a comeback within a short time, she observed.
She demanded a single authority to stop river pollution and grabbing and a master plan consulting with local people and green activists.
For years, government had no master plan for saving rivers but recently the government claimed that they have a plan.
Government’s plan was unacceptable because it was not prepared through a participatory process. Rather it was conceived by excluding the people to save many grabbers, she said.
For example, she said, the government was yet to rectify the blunders it committed during the demarcation of the Turag and the Dhaleswari — this was the best example where many grabbers were given legality on the Turag and the Buriganga.
If the government reclaimed rivers in Dhaka based on faulty boundaries it would send out a dangerous message to the agencies that were to reclaim rivers in the districts, she said.
Eviction drive to reclaim river should be participatory, transparent, she added.
Attorney Rizwana’s contention was that the government even failed to check river pollution after relocating tanneries from Hazarigah to Savar. The tanners were polluting the Dhaleswari now in the way they once polluted the Buriganga.
She said that the Department of Environment was mainly responsible for stopping environment pollution but the agency fully failed to do that following the law for reasons that included corruption as well as the government’s lack of political will.
The Department of Environment had issued environmental clearance certificates to many polluting industries that were not running effluent treatment plant.
Rizwana said that the rivers in Dhaka were mostly being polluted by government agencies. When government agencies violate law, how could DoE implement the same law for other organisations and individuals.
Though the DoE could take legal actions against both government and non-government agencies but the practical political situation dictated otherwise and it failed to take proper steps.
The DoE made a list of polluters but did not take any actions. If any industry failed to stop pollution, DoE should stop the industry.
According to her observation the government’s policy prioritising development over environment was totally wrong because none could restore environment after pollution.
Without environmental protection no development would be sustainable, she argued.
She urged the government not to surrender to the businesspeople, rather it could provide loan on easy term for setting ETP for protecting the environment.
‘We can live without industries but not without the environment, because nature provides all the necessary elements for people,’ she said.
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