25 August 2017, Fri, 7:00

HC asks govt not to approve any industrial unit within 10km of the Sundarbans

The High Court directed the government not to approve any factory within 10 kilometres of the Sundarbans.

The court also ordered the authorities concerned to submit within six months a list of the factories already set up within that distance.

Secretaries to the ministries of forest and environment, industries and land and the director general of Department of Environment (DoE) were made respondents.

The HC bench of Justice Moyeenul Islam Chowdhury and Justice JBM Hassan passed the order following a writ petition filed by Sheikh Faridul Islam, president of Save the Sundarbans Foundation.

Faridul had submitted the petition seeking HC directives on the authorities concerned to relocate factories constructed within the 10kms of the world's largest mangrove forest.

In the petition, he said the environment and forest ministry issued a gazette notification on August 30 in 1999, declaring the 10-km zone an ecologically critical area (ECA).

But the DoE reportedly issued site clearance certificates for 150 factories in that area over the years.

Earlier in a meeting of the National Environment Committee it was decided that the ministry would approve all the factories currently operating in the ECA.

Currently, the Bangladesh Environment Conservation (amendment) Act, 2010 prohibits permitting any factory within the area.

The national environment committee meeting also decided to relax and change some rules and policies to allow the factories that could be potentially risky for the environment, said the petition.

The decision was meant to legalise about 150 factories set up in 63 unions of 11 upazilas of five districts around the Sundarbans.

The move came at a time when the Unesco recommended the government to do a Strategic Environment Assessment of the forest's southwest region.

The Unesco also recommended not to construct any large structure in the Sundarbans area until the SEA was complete.

The government agreed to do that in a meeting of World Heritage Committee held last month in Krakow, Poland.

The environment ministry stopped issuing environmental clearance certificates for factories in the ECA in 2015.

Since then, the ministry has a large number of clearance certificate applications piled up. There were 16 applications for new permits and 118 for permit renewals.

So the national environment committee came up with the decision to help the factories get legalised.

The writ was filed challenging that move of the government.

Yesterday, the HC also issued a rule asking the respondents to explain in four weeks why the decision to approve 150 industries within the 10 kilometres of the Sundarbans should not be contradictory to the 1999 gazette notification.

It also asked why the respondents should not be directed to relocate the industrial units.

Secretaries to the ministries of forest and environment, industries and land and the DoE director general and eight other government officials were asked to comply with the directive.

Barrister Sheikh Md Zakir Hossain appeared for the petitioner while Deputy Attorney General Motaher Hossain Sazu represented the government.